An Added Reason to Learn a New Language: It Increases Brain Size

by Kate Willson

As if the benefits of learning a new language aren't fruitful enough as is-it can help increase employment opportunities, make you a more worldly person, and increase your dating pool- scientists have added another one to the list: learning a new language can actually make your brain bigger.

Swedish researchers from Lund University recently released a study suggesting that becoming fluent in another language can help beef up your brain-the cerebral cortex to be exact, which controls nearly all of your brain power: reasoning, visual processing, planning, and memory.

Learning a new language can also enlarge your hippocampus, the part of the brain that also helps with long term memory forming.

It isn't certain, but researchers assume that having a larger cerebral cotex can help you excel in your studies as well as come in handy during your old age, when people's memory and vision start to fade.

For the study, researchers evaluated two separate groups of recruits enlisted in the Swedish Armed Forces Interpreter Academy. One group had no previous knowledge of a second language but spent 13 months learning to speak languages such as Arabic, Russian, and Dari fluently. The other group of recruits (the control group) continued to keep their minds stimulated through educational lessons, but did not attempt to learn a language during the course of the study.

Both groups received MRIs scans before and after the study began.

While the brain structure didn't change for the control group, the group with individuals who learned to master a foreign language saw changes in the brain as mentioned above.

Even those this specific study doesn't state that a larger brain can help reduce the chances of developing dementia or Alzheimer's, there are other studies that suggest that being bilingual can keep the brain in better shape which can in turn could potentially off set memory-related diseases. So enroll in a foreign language at your local community college, or look at your options online.

The study was published in the October issue of NeuroImage, a Journal of Brain Function.

About the writer

Kate Willson is an education writer for an alternative education website. When she's not learning about new trends in education, she can be found cooking gourmet meals or reading.

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