The Ageing Brain

Posted by M ws On Sunday, October 14, 2012 0 comments
My oldest aunt is 97 years old but still has such a wonderful memory. She can even recall my naughty antics as a pre-schooler and even what happened during WWII. According to her, the secret to an alert mind is playing mahjong :-) and doing her tai-chi exercises.

Research has shown that learning a new language boosts brain power. That is one of the reasons why I took German classes two years ago. However, it was tough for me as I already studied French years ago and kind of got muddled. My German teacher was amused because there were many instances eg when counting in German or when conversing...I would begin in German and somehow slip into French halfway. :-(

Anyway, eight years ago (Oct 13 2004), BBC reported:

Learning languages 'boosts brain'

Learning a second language "boosts" brain-power, scientists believe.

Researchers from University College London studied the brains of 105 people - 80 of whom were bilingual.

They found learning other languages altered grey matter - the area of the brain which processes information - in the same way exercise builds muscles.

People who learned a second language at a younger age were also more likely to have more advanced grey matter than those who learned later, the team said.

Scientists already know the brain has the ability to change its structure as a result of stimulation - an effect known as plasticity - but this research demonstrates how learning languages develops it.
 

It means that older learners won't be as fluent as people who learned earlier in life
Andrea Mechelli, of University College London
The team took scans of 25 Britons who did not speak a second language, 25 people who had learned another European language before the age of five and 33 bilinguals who had learned a second language between 10 and 15 years old.

The scans revealed the density of the grey matter in the left inferior parietal cortex of the brain was greater in bilinguals than in those without a second language.

The effect was particularly noticeable in the "early" bilinguals, the findings published in the journal Nature revealed.

The findings were also replicated in a study of 22 native Italian speakers who had learned English as a second language between the ages of two and 34.

Lead researcher Andrea Mechelli, of the Institute of Neurology at UCL, said the findings explained why younger people found it easier to learn second languages.

Impact

"It means that older learners won't be as fluent as people who learned earlier in life.

"They won't be as good as early bilinguals who learned, for example, before the age of five or before the age of 10."

CLICK HERE for the rest of the entry.

Another article from The Guardian said:

Being bilingual may delay Alzheimer's and boost brain power

Research suggests that bilingual people can hold Alzheimer's disease at bay for longer, and that bilingual children are better at prioritising tasks and multitasking

Learning a second language and speaking it regularly can improve your cognitive skills and delay the onset of dementia, according to researchers who compared bilingual individuals with people who spoke only one language.

Their study suggests that bilingual speakers hold Alzheimer's disease at bay for an extra four years on average compared with monoglots. School-level language skills that you use on holiday may even improve brain function to some extent.

In addition, bilingual children who use their second language regularly are better at prioritising tasks and multitasking compared with monolingual children, said Ellen Bialystok, a psychologist at York University in Toronto.

"Being bilingual has certain cognitive benefits and boosts the performance of the brain, especially one of the most important areas known as the executive control system," said Bialystok on Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC.

CLICK HERE for the rest of the entry.

Finally, do you want to know how the brain ages? Check out the following infographic that Angela sent me recently.


*Click on the infographic for a larger image.

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