-- Robert Preidt
MONDAY, June 2, 2014 (HealthDay News) -- Speaking two or more
languages helps protect your brain as you age, even if you learn
new languages as an adult, new research suggests.
The study included 835 people born in Scotland in 1936 whose
first language was English. They were given mental skills tests at
age 11 and again in their early 70s. Of the participants, 262 were
able to speak at least two languages, with 195 of them learning a
second language before age 18, and the rest after that age.
Those who spoke two or more languages did much better on the
mental skills tests when they were older than what would be
expected from the tests they took when they were younger,
especially in the areas of general intelligence and reading, the
study authors found.
The positive effects of bilingualism were seen whether people
learned new languages when they were children or adults, the
researchers noted in the report published online June 2 in the
Annals of Neurology.
According to study author Dr. Thomas Bak, from the Centre for
Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology at the University of
Edinburgh, this study is the first to take into account for
childhood intelligence while examining whether learning a second
language affects mental skills later in life.
"These findings are of considerable practical relevance. Millions of people around the world acquire their second language later in life. Our study shows that bilingualism, even when acquired in adulthood, may benefit the aging brain," Bak concluded in a journal news release.
Although the study showed an association between learning a
second language and having a sharper mind later in life, it was not
designed to determine a cause-and-effect link between the two.
The findings provide "an important first step in understanding
the impact of learning a second language and the aging brain," Dr.
Alvaro Pascual-Leone, an associate editor for
Annals of Neurologyand a professor of medicine at Harvard
Medical School, wrote in an accompanying commentary.
HealthinAging.org offers tips to
keep your brain young as you age.
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