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 Is there any difference between male and female brains? 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 Are your dental fillings causing tooth decay? Parenting Male pregnancy is closer than you might think Medical Aids Day highlights need to fix SA's patents law Lifestyle "Condom Challenge" claims its first victim Medical A step-by-step guide on how to do pelvic floor exercises correctly Mental health Is there any difference between male and female brains? From our sponsors How will we feed 9 billion people? Live healthier Toilet matters » 45 toilets in the world Poop in weird places Toilet paper debate The funniest bathroom signs ever These signs have taken toilet humour to the next level. Too Tired? » 20 signs of burnout Staying active reduces stress 10 ways to have a healthier work day Why you're exhausted Lost your mojo? Here are 5 surprising energy drainers, plus the easy fixes that will help put the pep back in your step!