The benefits of being bilingual can be seen in 11-month-old babies
Speaking two languages can actually help offset some effectsof aging on the brain, a new study has found.
Numerous studies point to the benefits of speaking more than one language, with research showing that bilingual adults have a higher volume of gray matter and could recover more easily from brain injuries.
Researchers tested how long it took participants to switchfrom one cognitive task to another, something that’s known to takelonger for older adults, said lead researcher, Brian Gold, aneuroscientist at the University of Kentucky. As he spoke toABCNews.com from his cell phone, he said he was also in a grocerystore choosing between gala and granny smith apples — a perfectexample of switching between cognitive tasks in everyday life。
Scientists have also found that the positive effects of bilingualism can be seen in young children, but a new study suggests that the benefits of exposing a person to more than one language can be seen even when we're just a few months old.
“It has big implications these days because our population isaging more and more,” Gold said. “Seniors are living longer, andthat’s a good thing, but it’s only a good thing to the extent thattheir brains are healthy。”
"Our results suggest that before they even start talking, babies raised in bilingual households are getting practice at tasks related to executive function," said neuroscientist Naja Ferjan Ramírez from the University of Washington. "This suggests that bilingualism shapes not only language development, but also cognitive development more generally."
Gold’s team compared task-switching speeds for younger andolder adults, knowing they would find slower speeds in the olderpopulation because of previous studies. However, they found thatolder adults who spoke two languages were able to switch mentalgears faster than those who didn’t。
“我们的研究结果显示，在孩子开始说话前，双语环境实际上提供接受了执行力的训练，”华盛顿大学的神经系统科学家Naja Ferjan Ramírez说，“双语教育不仅塑造语言能力，还从总体上培养认知能力。”
According to the researchers, just as babies are about to turn 1 year old and start speaking themselves, they begin to make a change in how they process the sounds of spoken words, and this is where being raised in a bilingual household can be an advantage.
The study only looked at life-long bilinguals, defined in thestudy as people who had spoken a second language daily since theywere at least 10 years old。
"Monolingual babies show a narrowing in their perception of sounds at about 11 months of age – they no longer discriminate foreign-language sounds they successfully discriminated at six months of age,"said one of the team, Patricia Kuhl. "But babies raised listening to two languages seem to stay 'open' to the sounds of novel languages longer than their monolingual peers, which is a good and highly adaptive thing for their brains to do."
First, Gold and his team asked 30 people, who were eitherbilingual or monolingual, to look at a series of colored shapes andrespond with the name of each shape by pushing a button. Then, theypresented the participants with a similar series of colored shapesand asked them to respond with what colors the shapes were bypushing a button. Finally, researchers presented participants witha series of colored shapes, but they mixed prompts for either ashape or a color to test participants’ task-switching times。
The findings, published in Developmental Science, are based on observations made of 16 11-month-old babies who took part in the experiment. Eight of the babies came from families where English was the only language spoken, whereas the remaining eight came from Spanish-English households.
The bilingual people were able to respond faster to theshifting prompts。