Bilingualism in children improves memory in old age
The results of the study conducted on this topic show that adults 60 years of age who have spoken two languages from infancy can switch from one task to another more quickly than those who speak only one language. Moreover, older adults seem to require less bilingual "brain capacity" to carry out the task switching.
As we age, the ability to perform complex tasks, such as planning, scheduling and multitasking as well as our ability to adapt to unknown circumstances, are fading. Previous studies suggested that bilingualism could reduce this decline, but what was happening in the brain to give this improvement was not clear.
In this new research, healthy adults between 60 and 68, who were bilingual or monolingual, underwent magnetic resonance imaging brain scan, while carrying out a simple task. The first task was to identify whether a shape was a circle or a square, the second task was to identify the color of an object, red or blue, and the third task combined the two.
The researchers called this last task as the "task switch" because the study subjects had to switch between two choices: color and shape.
During the investigation, it was found that all participants needed more time to complete the task switch to the other two tasks. But bilingual adults were faster in reaction time during the latter task, which had to be switched, compared with monolingual adults.
In addition, bilingual adults showed no such activity in the frontal areas of the brain, while performing the task switcher, compared with monolingual participants.
"This suggests that bilingual older adults use their brains more efficiently than monolinguals" said researcher Brian Gold, University of Kentucky College of Medicine in Lexington.
Previous research already suggested that brain regions involved in switching from one language to another overlap with regions involved in switching from one task to another. So the act to regulate the change from one language to another can increase the effectiveness of the regions involved in task switching, Gold concluded.
Photography By Degeefe (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons