The Impact of Learning a Language on Brain Health – News-Medical.Net

The Impact of Learning a Language on Brain Health – News-Medical.Net

Over the past several years, there has been an increased research output in the field of language acquisition and its effects on the brain. This is especially true with regards to the effects of bilingualism.

Language acquisition has been shown to impact neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is the ability of the brain to undergo structural changes in response to stimulus, behavioral experience, or cognitive demands. The link between neuroplasticity and language acquisition has been documented in the literature; evidence suggests that as a product of learning a language and utilizing several languages, changes in brain anatomy are induced. These changes include the pattern of functional neurons and can occur rapidly and at any age.

The benefits of a bilingual brain – Mia Nacamulli

A study conducted in 2012 measured structural changes in the prefrontal and temporal cortices, particularly looking at changes in grey matter density. Grey matter is comprised of the cell bodies of neurons, and this area is generally associated with intelligence, attention, memory, and language processing. This contrasts with the white matter, which comprises axon bundles carrying nerve impulses between neurons and predominantly serves to connect different regions of grey matter; it consequently determines the speed of information processing and memory recall.

Participants underwent an intensive course of German and were examined at the beginning of the stay and approximately five months later. Researchers demonstrated that participants underwent an increase in the grey matter, which did not correlate with the degree of language proficiency. This indicated that this effect was directly attributable to second language acquisition.

A similar study conducted in 2012 observed that cortical thickness on the volume of the hippocampus was also increased in response to second language exposure. Collectively, these studies concluded that language acquisition could increase the density of grey matter.

In an investigation of the effect of early language exposure on the brain, researchers compared Spanish Catalan bilinguals exposed to two languages throughout that development, and a group cohort matched Spanish monolinguals. The bilingual group works left to have a larger Heschel’s gyri relative to monolinguals, an indication of a greater size of the auditory cortex. The researchers concluded that second language learning is a causal factor in the increased size of the auditory cortex.

The Effect of Language Learning on Aging

Recent evidence has suggested that there is a positive impact of bilingualism on cognition – with a later onset of dementia. Researchers from the University of Edinburgh used the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 to address wasn’t learning a second language can influence later cognitive performance. Disco halt offered the opportunity to address confounding variables such as ethnic and environmental differences.

The researchers found that bilinguals performed significantly better on tests conducted between 2008 and 2010. The strongest effects were observed on general intelligence and …….

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