A Second Language May Help Protect Aging Brain

Staying socially engaged, eating a nutritious diet, and getting regular physical activity are the cornerstones of healthy aging.  But to help prevent dementia in older age, studies show activities which challenge the brain can help slow or prevent cognitive decline among seniors.  A new study has also found that speaking two or more languages can boost memory and reduce the risk of developing conditions like Alzheimer’s disease. 

According to a recent Huffington Post UK report, new research out of the Glasgow Memory Clinic suggest that people who speak more than one language may have an increased cognitive reserve, making their brains more resilient to the effects of any mental deterioration in old age.   Using MRI scans of patients with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, researchers found bilingual study participants retained more of their grey brain matter that is associated with processing and releasing information.   Grey matter also gives people control over their movements, memory and emotions. 

New research which included hundreds of older adults also found that those who had spoken at least two languages from a young age scored higher on learning, memory and language tests than patients who only spoke one language.  Neuroscientists involved in the research believe that speaking a second language requires multitasking, self-control, emotion control and quick thinking to switch between two languages – helping to keep the mind agile and ward off dementia. The ability to communicate with and experience two different cultures may also give multi-language speakers an advantage by broadening their view of the world.  

Are you looking for a cognitive challenge beyond crosswords, Sudoku, or playing an instrument?  It’s never too late to learn a new language; and in doing so protect your brain, widen your experience of the world, and learn about different cultures.  Follow this link to the language learning app Babbel or check out your local community college or university for adult learning programs.