Trs bien! Speaking two languages from childhood keeps brain in good shape as we age
Pensioners who spoke two languages from childhood were far quicker at switching between mental tasksBilinguals also expended less mental energy, suggesting they were using their brains more efficiently
10:57 GMT, 9 January 2013
13:23 GMT, 9 January 2013
Hours spent in language classes struggling with masculine and feminine nouns and upside down punctuation may all be worth it, say scientists.
For pensioners who learn a second tongue as children have far sharper brains when they reach their sixties.
A study from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine found senior citizens who have spoken two languages since childhood are faster at switching from one task to another than those who only know one.
Multi-lingual: Speaking several languages boosts the brain later in life, say researchers
MRI scans revealed that lifelong bilinguals appeared to be using their brains more efficiently, which increased their speed.
The findings confirm the value of regular stimulating mental activity throughout life.
As people age, cognitive flexibility – the ability to adapt to unfamiliar or unexpected circumstances – and related 'executive' brain functions decline.
Recent studies suggest this decline
could be stemmed by speaking more than one language – a boost that may
stem from the experience of constantly switching between languages. The
latest study revealed how the number of tongues you speak affects brain
Cmo est Switching between languages appears to bolster brain functions
A team led by Dr Brian Gold from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine used MRI scans to compare brain activity of healthy 60 to 68-year-olds while they completed mentally challenging tasks.
The first task asked participants to identify if a shape was a circle or a square. The second to identify if an object was red or blue and the third task combined the first two.
They found that both monolingual and bilingual seniors performed the task accurately. However, those who spoke two languages or more were faster at completing the third task despite expending less energy in the frontal cortex – an area known to be involved in task switching.
Dr Gold added: 'This suggests that bilingual seniors use their brains more efficiently than monolingual seniors.
'Together, these results suggest that lifelong bilingualism may exert its strongest benefits on the functioning of frontal brain regions in aging.'
The study compared people who spoke one or two languages from childhood. The team said further research was needed to see if learning another tongue later in life could be as beneficial.
The findings were published in The Journal of Neuroscience.