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Scientist Discover Weird Way to Potentially Offset Alzheimer’s and Dementia

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According to a new study, learning a new language can eliminate some of the effect of aging on the brain.

In the study, researchers tested how long participants take to switch from one brain task to the next. There’s a lot of scientific evidence that older people take longer to reorient their brains than younger people, but what’s most interesting is that people who are bilingual were able to make the switch faster than their non-bilingual friends.

ABC News interviewed the lead researcher for the study, Brian Gold, a neuroscientist at the University of Kentucky. A common example of switching tasks in every day life, according to Gold, is choosing between gala and granny smith apples in the grocery store aisle.

“It has big implications these days because our population is aging more and more,” ABC News quoted Gold as saying. “Seniors are living longer, and that’s a good thing, but it’s only a good thing to the extent that their brains are healthy.”

In the experiment, bilingual people were able to shift faster to the prompts.

“Until very recently, learning a second language in childhood was thought of as dangerous,” he said. “Actually, it’s beneficial” Gold was quoted as saying.

Professor Gold’s study is just one of many linking brain benefits to knowing a second language. Time Magazine recently reported on the benefits as well. According to Time, multilingual brains are nimbler, quicker, and even resist Alzheimer’s disease and forms of dementia longer than their peers.

Their study suggests that bilingual speakers hold Alzheimer’s disease at bay for an extra four years on average compared with monoglots. – The Guardian

As a result of studies like these, more schools are putting their kids through language-immersion programs. But what about if you’re already older? Is it still possible to obtain some of the brain benefits of knowing two languages?

The answer, according to many sources is a resounding yes. The LATimes recently published an article that said “learning a second language at any age may slow the brain’s decline”. The article referred to a study published in the Annals of Neurology that picking up a language, even later in life, can have substantial benefits.

Researchers at the University of Edinburg gave 853 people an IQ test in 1947 when they were 11 years old. Between 2008 and 2010, this group was retested when they were in their 70’s. Out of the group, 262 people knew more than one language. Researchers in the study found that the bilingual speakers performed ‘much better than expected, particularly in reading and in general intelligence’.

According to the researchers, knowing a second language was comparable to factors such as physical fitness and not smoking.

LATimes writer Amina Khan concluded her article with this comment: “Maybe it’s time to blow the dust off of that Spanish textbook or dig up that Mandarin audio CD and learn something new.”

Programs like Pimsleur have proven to be an effective way to learn a new language. Some people have learned basic conversational skills in as little as 10 days. The program has been purchased by the U.S. Government, particularly the FBI, to teach language skills to agents.

Click here to learn how Pimsleur can teach you a second langauge.

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