Why Bilinguals Are Smarter (NY Times)

March 17, 2012

Being bilingual, it turns out, makes you smarter. It can have a profound effect on your brain, improving cognitive skills not related to language and even shielding against dementia in old age.

The key difference between bilinguals and monolinguals may be more basic: a heightened ability to monitor the environment. In a study bilingual subjects not only performed better, but they also did so with less activity in parts of the brain involved in monitoring, indicating greater mental efficiency.

Bilingualism’s effects also extend into the twilight years. In a recent study of 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals were more resistant than others to the onset of dementia and other symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease: the higher the degree of bilingualism, the later the age of onset.

Erik says: Similar findings have occured with dance. Although dance itself is not considered a "language" by scientific standards, perhaps the brain treats dance and language similarly as it diversifies and broadeds the neurological pathways in the brain.

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