Speaking Two Languages May Slow Brain Aging

Well If that isn’t a headline designed to grab readers immediately then I don’t know what is. I found this article on huffington post online and it caught my attention pretty well. The article is about a recent study that was done in order to see if learning a second language, even as an adult, would help to slow the decline of cognitive function in the brain as people age.

While other studies have been performed on the same subject matter, there was one big criticism for those studies. ¬†When reviewing these past studies other people wondered if learning new languages decreased cognition degeneration, or the people whose cognition didn’t degrade were just the ones to go and learn new languages because their cognitive functioning was higher.

The study combated this criticism by selecting a large group of people, 800, from a similar area, Edinburgh, Scotland. They measured the participants intelligence at age 11 and then again at age 70. It was found that those participants that had learned a second language, no matter the age of learning, were proven to have higher cognitive function than their peers.

So how might this higher cognitive function manifest itself? Well, those that had learned second languages had tested much higher in general intelligence and reading when compared to other members of the study.

This news article also mentions another causal studies that had showed that people who had learned another language typically lengthened the onset time of dementia by about 4.5 years. However, the article doesn’t go into any greater detail about the study so it is harder to discern the validity of this study.

This article does not seem to go very deeply into any of the cognitive psychology behind either of these studies, instead just stating the basic facts of them. In fact this news article does not even seem to cite the study that they are talking about. So it seems that although this article tries to be scientific and intelligent, it only provides the barest of information, and seems to operate under the thinking that cognition is mostly just IQ scores, seeing as those are what they mention are affected.

1 thought on “Speaking Two Languages May Slow Brain Aging

  1. arunk

    I think this particular topic is really interesting. Reading the article on huffington post, it seems like there may be some possible problems with the study, however because they chose not link the original work it would be hard to say that definitively. For me, the biggest concern would be the length of time between the administration of the first and second intelligence tests. Tests like that do not remain static over time and are frequently updated in order to attempt to reduce those problems. One of the major criticisms of early intelligence tests was that they were so culturally specific that they may be invalid for anybody who was not from the country where they were developed or who did not receive a solid education. Taking that into consideration, it is likely that whatever test they used originally was changed drastically between the administrations to fix validity errors, meaning the two tests were probably vastly different. It would be really interesting to see research in the future that addressed problems like that when looking at the impact of learning a second language on general intelligence.

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