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January 17, 2013

Second Language Could Help Brain Later in Life

Bilingual seniors who have spoken two languages since childhood showed their thinking skills were quicker than individuals who only spoke one language. A lifetime of speaking two different languages might be able to help keep the brain sharper in older people, said researchers of the recently completed study.
Included in the study were seniors who were between the ages of 60 and 68 and were listed as being healthy. Two groups were formed in the study. One was made up of people who had been bilingual since their childhood and one was made up of people who were monolingual their entire lives, or who spoke just one language. While participating in different tasks using their brains, the participants were monitored.
Compared to participants who spoke just one language, the bilingual seniors were faster at switching from one task to another when requested. It also took less energy from the frontal area of the bilingual individual’s brain to make each switch.
These new findings suggest that seniors who are bilingual can use their brains more efficiently compared to seniors who have always been monolingual. The lead author said his study’s results suggest that being bilingual for a lifetime might exert its best benefits during aging on the frontal regions of the person’s brain.
Younger adults who were both monolingual as well as bilingual were tested and results found that bilingual individuals at a younger age did not have any advantage over their monolingual counterparts in switching from mental task to mental task and their brain patterns remained equal to those of people who were monolingual.

(June 2015) One study  showed that the  bilingual patients had been diagnosed about 4 years later and had reported the onset of symptoms about 5 years later than the monolingual patients. The groups were equivalent on measures of cognitive and occupational level, there was no apparent effect of immigration status, and the monolingual patients had received more formal education. There were no gender differences.

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