Home > Mental health > Brain > News 30 August 2013 Language learning stimulates brain growth The age at which children learn a second language can have a significant bearing on the structure of their adult brain, according to a new study. 2 Shutterstock Related Babies learn language in the womb Fun activities boost language learning 'Bilingual babies' can tell languages apart Ask CyberShrink » Talk Heart to heart forum » How brain injury affects you Transparent brains The age at which children learn a second language can have a significant bearing on the structure of their adult brain, according to a new joint study by the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital – The Neuro at McGill University and Oxford University. The majority of people in the world learn to speak more than one language during their lifetime. Many do so with great proficiency, particularly if the languages are learned simultaneously or from early in development.The study concludes that the pattern of brain development is similar if you learn one or two language from birth. However, learning a second language later on in childhood after gaining proficiency in the first (native) language does in fact modify the brain’s structure, specifically the brain’s inferior frontal cortex. The left inferior frontal cortex became thicker and the right inferior frontal cortex became thinner. The cortex is a multi-layered mass of neurons that plays a major role in cognitive functions such as thought, language, consciousness and memory.New neural growthThe study suggests that the task of acquiring a second language after infancy stimulates new neural growth and connections among neurons in ways seen in acquiring complex motor skills such as juggling. The study’s authors speculate that the difficulty that some people have in learning a second language later in life could be explained at the structural level.“The later in childhood that the second language is acquired, the greater are the changes in the inferior frontal cortex,” said Dr. Denise Klein, researcher in The Neuro’s Cognitive Neuroscience Unit and a lead author on the paper published in the journal Brain and Language. “Our results provide structural evidence that age of acquisition is crucial in laying down the structure for language learning.”Using a software program developed at The Neuro, the study examined MRI scans of 66 bilingual and 22 monolingual men and women living in Montreal. The work was supported by a grant from the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada and from an Oxford McGill Neuroscience Collaboration Pilot project. (Picture: boy talking from Shutterstock) EurekAlert More in Mental health Users' questions to CyberShrink on mental health More: BrainNews advertisement Read Health24’s Comments Policy Comment on this story 2 comments Comments have been closed for this article. Logout Comment 0 characters remaining Share on Facebook Loading comments... Other news Diet and nutrition 8 non-food reasons why your Banting weight loss has stalled Diet and nutrition Calorie restriction improves health, mood, sex drive Medical Defibrillators tied to long-term complications Medical Insomnia: therapy preferable to medication Medical Type 2 diabetes may damage hearing Medical Omega-3 supplements could make antidepressants more effective From our sponsors Top tips for beating PMS now Win a spa voucher worth R1000! Don't let PMS get you down Four tips for healthy winter hair Live healthier Coffee and wine for the win! » Could heartburn drugs upset your 'good' gut bacteria? Life is a gut reaction Good news! Coffee & wine may promote a healthy gut Diverse bacteria help your gut stay healthy. Here's how what you eat and drink can help or harm that balance - and it's not all bad news. I gave hubby HIV » Giving babies antibodies promptly may eliminate HIV Vaginal ring to prevent HIV on the cards I gave my husband HIV and watched him die Stephanie van Niekerk unwittingly infected her husband with HIV and ended up having to watch him wither and die in front of her very eyes. This is Stephanie's story in her own words.