A study from the University of Edinburgh shows that learning a second language has a good effect on the brain, even if it is done in adulthood.
Verbal fluency, reading, and intelligence improved among 262 people tested for the study, researchers found. The people who were tested are from age 11 to their 70s. There is also a previous study which shows that being bilingual can delay the negative effects of dementia.
The recent study was published in the journal Annals of Neurology.
The main issue that surrounds this study is whether learning a new language could improve the cognitive functions of a person, or is it the advanced cognitive abilities of a person that makes it easier for him or her to learn a new language.
Dr Thomas Bak of the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology said their study shows that bilingualism, even when learned in adulthood, can have a positive effect on the ageing brain.
The study shows that people who can speak two or more languages had cognitive abilities that are significantly better than the expected results that they would get from their baseline tests. The strongest positive effects of bilingualism are in the reading and general intelligence aspect of the brain.
According to BostonHarvardMedicalSchool professor of medicine Dr. Alvaro Pascual-Leone, this study is an important first step in determining the impact of learning a second language to brain ageing.
The researchers admitted that there are some loopholes involved in the study though. The study does not show if the second language needs to be used often to gain the positive effects or if it is enough to just know the second language.
Never the less, this study opens up an opportunity for future studies on how to prevent the decline of cognitive functions using bilingualism.