Did you know that learning a new language is one of the best workouts you can give your brain?
Our brains need stimulation and activity to function at their best. And as we age, experts tell us, our brains need more activity – not less. Yet we have a tendency to slow down, to become comfortable with what we already know. When we no longer give our minds the exercise they need, we can experience a kind of decline in our thought process and even memory loss. But you can change that by challenging your mind every single day. Experts agree, and recent studies show, that Learning and speaking a foreign language is an excellent way to maintain your memory skills and stave off the aging brain syndrome.

Two languages make your brain buff

February 18th, 2011

If you had any doubts about exposing your child – or yourself – to a foreign language, there’s more evidence than ever that being bilingual has enormous benefits for your brain.

Scientists presented their research supporting this idea Friday at the American Association for the Advancement of Science annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

As the human body begins its natural decline in old age, bilinguals seem to maintain better cognitive function, said Ellen Bialystok of York University in Toronto, Ontario. This is the case even for people with dementia. Bialystok and colleagues have studied many Alzheimer’s patients, both monolinguals and bilinguals. They found that bilinguals were on average four to five years older than monolinguals at comparable points of neurological impairment.

Once Alzheimer’s disease begins to compromise the brain, it appears that bilinguals can continue to function even though there’s damaged tissue, she said.

So what’s going on? One theory is that language learning is an example of “cognitive reserve.” It something that keeps the mind active in the same way as puzzles and games do, and works toward compensating for the build-up of dementia-causing pathology in the brain, Bialystok said.

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Being bilingual ‘boosts brain power’

1 May 2012

Learning a second language can boost brain power, scientists believe. The US researchers from Northwestern University say bilingualism is a form of brain training – a mental “work out” that fine-tunes the mind.

Speaking two languages profoundly affects the brain and changes how the nervous system responds to sound, lab tests revealed. Experts say the work in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences provides “biological” evidence of this.

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Mapping the Bilingual Brain

By Chris Berube, December 12, 2012

Preventative medicine
While many contemporary studies have linked bilingualism with a better-performing brain, more recently, a few researchers have begun exploring the question of whether language proficiency affects disease outcomes — does bilingualism, in other words, help stave off certain illnesses? Bialystok has studied people suffering from dementia and she believes that the healthier bilingual brain actually weathers the ravages of aging better than a monolingual one.

In one experiment published in 2012, Bialystock examined the brain scans of 40 patients diagnosed with probable Alzheimer’s disease. “For our test subjects, we had people with the same level of disease, at exactly the same age,” says Bialystok. They all showed approximately the same symptoms. Their brains, therefore, should look pretty much the same. But what Bialystok found was surprising.

Traditionally, the brain of a person with Alzheimer’s atrophies as neurons die: the brain’s outer layer begins to shrink, and the hippocampus withers. When Bialystok compared the brains of 40 patients, she found that the brains of the bilinguals in the study showed twice as much atrophy as the monolinguals. But despite having far more diseased brains, they had performed as well on cognitive tests as the monolinguals with less diseased brains.

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Learning a Second Language Protects Against Alzheimer’s

By Clara Moskowitz, LiveScience Senior Writer, 18 February 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Want to protect against the effects of Alzheimer’s? Learn another language. That’s the takeaway from recent brain research, which shows that bilingual people’s brains function better and for longer after developing the disease.

Psychologist Ellen Bialystok and her colleagues at York University in Toronto recently tested about 450 patients who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Half of these patients were bilingual, and half spoke only one language.

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Learn a foreign language to age-proof your brain

24 February 2011

According to new research announced February 22, people who speak more than two languages over their lifespan may lower their risks of developing memory problems. The study, which will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 63rd Annual Meeting in Honolulu this April, enlisted 230 men and women with an average age of 73 who had spoken or currently spoke two to seven languages.

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