Feb 19, 2020

Foreign languages protect your brain

Speaking multiple languages protects against a decline in brain function, says a new study.

Research carried out by a team at the University of Reading tested the idea that there’s an advantage for bilinguals when it comes to neurodegenerative diseases such as MS, dementia and Alzheimer’s.

How Foreign Languages Can Protect Brain Function Decline

It’s the first study of its kind, and it backs up the commonly held belief that speaking multiple languages protects your brain from disease. Previous studies have demonstrated that brain volume increases in people who speak multiple languages, and that multilingual people find it easier to remember shopping lists or quickly distinguish between important and irrelevant information.

The recent research, published in ‘Linguistic approaches to Bilingualism’, used cognitive tests on patients with multiple sclerosis – comparing the scores of bilingual speakers with those of monolingual speakers. Lead author Dr Fraibert Aveledo explained: ‘Our study has directly compared four groups of people and reveals a significant cognitive boost for MS patients who speak multiple languages compared to their single language peers.’

This information is useful in understanding the role that linguistics play in manging MS, says Dra Yolanda Higueras, a neuropsychologist in the MS Unit at Gregorio Marañón, Hospital which supported the study.

If the findings are correct, learning another language and practising it regularly might just be a way to protect yourself against mental decline.

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