Bilingualism, the ability to use two languages was considered as a disadvantage earlier. It was thought that the presence of two vocabularies would lead to delayed language development in children.
Learning an extra language can lead to sharper brains because people who speak two languages actually have more gray matter in the executive control region of the brain, says a new study.
The findings added to the growing understanding of how long-term experience with a particular skill -- in this case management of two languages -- changes the brain. The researchers compared gray matter in bilinguals of American Sign Language (ASL) and spoken English with monolingual users of English.
"The experience with two languages and the increased need for cognitive control to use them appropriately would result in brain changes in Spanish-English bilinguals when compared with English-speaking monolinguals," said Director Dr.Guinevere Eden, Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC).
The team compared gray matter volume between adult bilinguals and monolinguals. Greater gray matter for bilinguals was observed in frontal and parietal brain regions that are involved in executive control. Gray matter of the brain has been shown to differ in volume as a function of people's experiences.
"Our aim was to address whether the constant management of two spoken languages leads to cognitive advantages and the larger gray matter we observed in Spanish-English bilinguals, or whether other aspects of being bilingual, such as the large vocabulary associated with having two languages, could account for this. The management of two spoken languages in the same modality, rather than simply a larger vocabulary, leads to the differences we observed in the Spanish-English bilinguals," explained lead author Olumide Olulade, GUMC.