We've heard about cognitive benefits to children of speaking 2 languages - this
item proposes benefits later in life... DZO
----- Forwarded message from Stephen <maestros@...
Date: Mon, 14 Jun 2004 18:23:23 -0500
From: Stephen <maestros@...
Subject: Another benefit of being bilingual
Bilingualism May Keep the Mind Young
Knowing Two Languages May Slow Effects of Aging on the Mind
By Jennifer Warner
WebMD Medical News Reviewed By Brunilda Nazario, MD
on Monday, June 14, 2004
June 14, 2004 -- Two languages may be better than one when it comes to keeping
the mind young. A new study shows that being fluent in two languages may help
prevent some of the effects of aging on brain function.
Researchers found that people who were bilingual most of their lives were better
able to stay focused on a task amidst a rapidly changing environment compared
with people who only spoke one language.
The ability to keep one's attention on a task is known as fluid intelligence,
and it is one of the first aspects of brain function to deteriorate as people
Researchers suggest that that the ability to stay focused and to manage
attention while ignoring irrelevant information may involve some of the same
brain processes involved in using two languages. This means bilingualism may
offer a wide range of benefits for keeping the mind sharp and fighting the
effects of aging.
Bilingualism May Counter Effects of Aging
In the study, which appears in this month's issue of the journal Psychology and
Aging, researchers compared the reaction time of a task performed by a group of
bilingual and monolingual middle-aged (30- to 59-year-olds) and older (60- to
88-year-olds). The task measured brain thinking processes known to decline with
For example, in one test the participants watched flashing squares on a computer
screen and were asked to press a particular colored key when they saw a square
in a certain location of the screen. Half of the squares were presented on the
same side of the screen where the correct key was located and the other half of
the squares were on the opposite side of the screen to where the correct key
Then the number of squares was also increased and other distractions were
introduced to analyze reaction time.
Researchers found that in all phases of the testing, both younger and older
bilingual adults performed the task faster than those who only spoke one
language, regardless of positioning of the squares or the speed in which the
squares were presented.
More importantly, researchers say that the bilingual participants were also less
distracted by unnecessary information.
All of the bilinguals in the study had used their two languages everyday since
they were 10 years old, and researchers say that the life-long experience of
managing two languages may prevent some of the negative effects of aging on
processing of distracting information.
SOURCES: Bialystock, E. Psychology and Aging, June 2004; vol 19: pp 290-303.
News release, American Psychological Association
----- End forwarded message -----