Being bilingual may slow brain decline
Learning a second language may help improve certain brain functions while slowing the brain’s natural aging process, concludes new research.
Scientists at the University of Edinburgh looked at data from intelligence tests taken by 262 Edinburgh residents at the age of 11 and then when those people were tested again in their 70s. All of the participants were bilingual—195 of them having learned a second language besides English before the age of 18, and 65 having learned a second language after the age of 18. The researchers then focused on how the participants’ cognitive abilities changed over time.
The findings, published in the journal Annals of Neurology, showed that those who spoke two or more languages—regardless of when they learned a second language—had stronger cognitive abilities compared to what would have been expected from the results of their baseline tests. The researchers found that being bilingual seemed to especially improve general intelligence and reading skills.
Researchers said that their study provides some understanding of the effect of learning a second language on the brain's aging process. However, they noted that further studies will be needed to confirm whether the link between bilingualism and cognitive decline prevention is causal.