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 'The plane is going to crash': Anxiety aboard flight SAA 323 2017-10-17 07:45 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 Lifestyle Why women are opting to get their virginity restored through hymenoplasty Parenting Does mom's dagga end up in breast milk? News SEE: This surprising group is at risk of getting Listeriosis Medical A quick guide to sinus-related congestion Fitness The genius ab exercise that all gymnasts use, but everyone else ignores News SEE: 6 body parts that can alert you to major health problems From our sponsors WIN a R2 000 beauty voucher! Understanding diabetes self-management Fed up with the Phlemings? Let’s chat diabetes and erectile dysfunction Live healthier FYI » When the flu turns deadly Why the flu makes you feel so miserable Could a deadly flu strain hit SA this winter? Following an intense flu season in the US and UK, should we be worried about our own upcoming flu season? Alcohol and acne » Dagga vs alcohol: Which is worse? SEE: Why you are drinking more alcohol than you realise Does alcohol cause acne? Some foods can be a trigger for acne, but what about alcohol? Dermatologist Dr Nerissa Moodley weighs in.