Being bilingual (the ability to speak a second language) could slow brain ageing and reduce the risk of dementia, say Canadian researchers
People who are bilingual use their brain than those who are monolingual (speak one language), which can have a beneficial effect on brain health and their chances of developing dementia.
Researchers from the University of Montreal in Canada asked both bilingual and monolingual seniors to perform a task, which involved them focusing on piece of information, but ignoring another. The researchers then monitor brain activity in them.
They discovered that seniors who only spoke one language used a larger area of brain, with multiple connections, while those who spoke more than one language used less brain area, and used it more efficiently. They were also less likely to use the front area of the brain, which is more vulnerable to ageing, which can lead to dementia.
It’s thought the reason bilingual speakers are more efficient is because they’re used to juggling two separate languages and not getting them mixed up.
‘After years of daily practice managing interference between two languages, bilinguals become experts at selecting relevant information and ignoring information that can distract from a task,’ said Ansaldo, a researcher the University of Montreal.
‘We have observed that bilingualism has a concrete impact on brain function and that this may have a positive impact on cognitive aging.
‘We now need to study how this function translates to daily life, for example, when concentrating on one source of information instead of another, which is something we have to do every day. And we have yet to discover all the benefits of bilingualism.’
The study was published in the journal Neurolinguistics.