Researchers from Baycrest and York University surveyed About how language learning can affect your brain health. While it is known that bilingualism has a protective effect on them, and in the case of bilinguals the possibility of developing dementia later on, little is known about the cognitive effects of learning a second language in the elderly.
Language and brain learning – research
The scientists recruited 76 elderly people between the ages of 65 and 75 for the study. Participants spoke only one language, were mentally fit and had not learned any other language in the past 10 years. They were randomly assigned to one of three groups: learning Spanish (which they didn’t know before), and brain training for a control group that did no activity.
For 16 weeks, the language learning group spent 30 minutes a day using the Duolingo online language learning app. People in the brain training group spent the same amount of time, but with BrainHQ from Posit Science. At the end of the trial, the researchers measured progress and satisfaction with the program.
Benefits of learning a second language
They found that participants in the language-learning and brain-exercise group showed similar improvements in two cognitive domains: working memory and executive function. These relate to the ability to manage conflicting information, maintain focus, and avoid distractions. The brain training group also showed improvements in processing speed. Spanish learners, in turn, enjoyed the process even more.
“Participants in our study showed significant improvement in cognitive function without being fluent in Spanish, suggesting that you don’t need to be bilingual for the brain to benefit from working in another language,” said Dr. Elaine Bialystok, Distinguished Research Professor at York University. Department of Psychology and Associate Scientist at RRI.
We can decide to learn another language at any age, thus developing our brains and gaining cognitive benefits. “In addition to the cognitive benefits, learning a second language can enrich the lives of older adults – for example, by making new friends or opening the door to learning about a new culture and travel so they can live their lives to the fullest,” added Dr. Meltzer, associate professor of biology. Psychology and speech and language pathology at the University of Toronto.
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