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 » 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 Multiple sclerosis linked to low vitamin D More: BrainNews advertisement Get a quote Momentum - save up to 35% on healthcare 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 Medical Gautengers, do you know your HIV status? Diet and nutrition How can SA end malnutrition and curb obesity? Lifestyle Don't let medical aid schemes bamboozle you Diet and nutrition What your dietician wants you to know about healthy eating in the workplace Diet and nutrition National Nutrition Week focuses on 'Healthy eating in the workplace' Medical Abnormal birth weight may cause problems later in life From our sponsors Dehydration at a glance What could happen in the next 37 seconds? Fifty and fabulous! There’s something newly cool about turning 50 World Thrombosis Day 2015 Live healthier Make a change and get moving! » The dangers of blood clots Fit people live longer Exercise is key to health in old age How you can get moving Fee like a useless lump of laziness just laying on the couch? Fear not, there's hope for you! Here's how you can get active. Up for grabs! » To vape or not to vape? Twisp's new range of e-cigs Discover your Twisp Win one of the 3 new devices from Twisp! Now you can stand a chance of winning one of the 3 new devices, as well as flavours and accessories worth R2000 each!