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 NEXT ON HEALTH24X October is Mental Health Awareness Month in South Africa 2016-10-12 16:21 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 News Win R5 000 with the Health of the Nation Survey Diet and nutrition Shocking finding: toxic metals in gluten-free food Medical Post-menopausal? Try getting some exercise Medical Struggling to get an erection? News Depression can also strike expectant and new dads Lifestyle SEE: Can your liver handle the alcohol? From our sponsors 10 facts about diabetes and insulin you need to know How to care for your vaginal flora JHB - Free Caregiver Workshop with TENA experts - 15 February JHB - Free home visit and assessment with a TENA nurse advisor Live healthier Hello? » SEE: Interesting facts about hearing loss Earworms: Let it go Is it bad to sleep with earplugs all the time? SEE: Do women hear better than men? The reason why men often appear not to be listening could be because they actually can't hear you. Confident smile? » Acidic drinks can harm your kids' smiles The facts on bleaching your teeth Am I taking good care of my teeth? Why are my teeth stained? We know the rules – brush your teeth twice a day and floss to keep them healthy. But, have you ever wondered what causes those stains that sometimes appear?