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 Pin It Shutterstock Related Babies learn language in the womb Fun activities boost language learning 'Bilingual babies' can tell languages apart Ask CyberShrink » Blog Bipolar journey » Talk Heart to heart forum » Quiz Are you a hypochondriac? » 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 Depression may be a result of concussion More: BrainNews advertisement Get a quote Bestmed - offering you quality healthcare and freedom of choice Momentum - save up to 35% on healthcare Medihelp - quality, affordable medical scheme cover advertisement Read Health24’s Comments Policy Comment on this story 2 comments Add your comment Thank you, your comment has been submitted. Logout Comment 0 characters remaining Share on Facebook Logout Comment 0 characters remaining Share on Facebook Loading comments... Other news Lifestyle Kids' movies send mixed messages Mental health Depression may be a result of concussion Lifestyle Firms cash in on your flexi-time Lifestyle Poor dental health may affect thinking Lifestyle Cords from blinds may strangle kids Medical US state laws can help curb binge drinking From our sponsors Your retirement - a healthy mindset So many people, why so alone? You can still enjoy the sweet things in life Take the sugar test, it could save your life. Live healthier Grief » Phases of grief Culture and grief Grieving in holidays How do you deal with grief? There is no right way of coping with death. The way a person grieves depends on the personality of that person and the relationship with the person who has died. Weight loss » Healthy snacking Weight and heart Texting and weight 10 tips to lose weight Need to shed some weight? Get rid of those extra kilos for good with these 10 expert weight loss tips, compiled by Health24's DietDoc, Dr Ingrid van Heerden.