In a new study, a team from Université de Montréal found that people who happen to know two or more languages are more immune to dementia than the ones who know only one language.
Dementia is a broad category of brain diseases that cause a long term and often gradual decrease in the ability to think and remember that is great enough to affect a person’s daily functioning. As a person ages, he becomes prone to forgetfulness, however, years of bilingualism helps brain carry out functions in a different way in which a person can focus on one thing at a time without being distracted from the other. This efficiency helps them pick up useful information that needs to be picked, extracting the irrelevant information.
The team asked two groups, one group has monolinguals and one has bilinguals, to focus on the colour of the object that is the visual information that was provided to them, the positioning of the same object that is spatial information was asked to be ignored. They then noted by studying their functional brain connections that the brain of monolinguals had to recruit multiple regions of the brain to do so, the brains of bilinguals, on the other hand, recruited fewer and more specialised regions, the ones that were enough to save the required information. The frontal region of the brain was not used by bilinguals but was used by monolinguals which interfered with the focusing.
“After years of daily practice managing interference between two languages, bilinguals become experts at selecting relevant information and ignoring information that can distract from a task,” Dr. Ana Inés Ansaldo, leader of the study explained. “Although bilinguals and monolinguals were equally good at controlling the task, their brains are not doing the same thing. The bilinguals were much more economical in terms of the brain power”.
The working of the brain in this way as observed in the case of bilinguals helps saving power as you age resulting in a positive impact on cognitive aging. More advantages of knowing two or more languages are yet to be discovered, its role in our daily life of concentration is also to be known. Researchers will continue their study in the same area to find out the same, according to the statement made by university’s geriatric research centre (IUGM).
The work has been published in the journal ‘Neurolinguistics’ under the name of ‘Interference control at the response level: Functional networks reveal higher efficiency in the bilingual brain’.