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Bilingualism 'keeps brain sharp'

05 June 2014 09:17

Learning a second language at any point in your life could help keep your brain sharp as you age

Learning a second language at any point in your life could help keep your brain sharp as you age

Being bilingual helps to keep the brain sharp as a person gets older, research suggests.

Researchers at the University of Edinburgh observed a pattern of slower mental decline over a significant period of time in people who were able to communicate in at least one language other than English.

Those who spoke two or more languages, meanwhile, had considerably better cognitive abilities in their 70s than their peers.

Findings from previous research had suggested that bilingualism might improve cognition and delay dementia.

What is for sure, however, is that the ability to speak more than one language is extremely beneficial when it comes to holidaying abroad.

It can make things easier when it comes to ordering food and drink in a local restaurant or speaking to staff at the resort where you are staying.

Travel insurance is a necessity when visiting an overseas destination, just in case something goes wrong, and there are numerous options available for seniors when it comes to cover.

The research team from the University of Edinburgh analysed a group of 835 people who were all born in 1936.

They gave each of the participants an intelligence test in 1947 at the age of 11, and then retested them in their early 70s between 2008 and 2010.

A total of 262 had a grasp of another language in addition to English. This second language was learnt before the age of 18 by nearly 200 of these participants.

Dr Thomas Bak, who led the research, claims bilingualism, even when acquired in adulthood, may benefit the ageing brain.

He believes the findings, which are published in the Annals of Neurology, open the door to further investigations which may help doctors find new ways to understand mental decline in older people in the future.