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Bilingual good for the mind.

Byline: Robin Turner

A study has produced good news for a bilingual nation like Wales - being fluent in two languages can help the brain stay healthy for longer.

Researchers from York University in Canada carried out tests on 104 people aged 30-88. They found those fluent in two languages rather than just one were sharper mentally and stayed sharper for longer.

In the journal Psychology and Ageing, they said being bilingual may protect against mental decline.

Some previous studies have shown that keeping the brain active through activities such as crosswords or playing musical instruments can protect against senile dementia.

The university's Dr Ellen Bialystok assessed the cognitive skills of those who took part in the study.

Their vocabulary skills, non-verbal reasoning ability and their reaction time were all put to the test.

Half came from Canada and spoke only English; the rest came from India and were fluent in English and Tamil.

The volunteers were all educated to degree level and were middle class.

Those fluent in English and Tamil responded faster than those fluent in just English.

Bilingual volunteers were also much less likely to suffer from the mental decline associated with old age.

Dr Clive Ballard, of the Alzheimer's Society, said, "It's a possibility the acquisition of a second language in early childhood may influence the process of the development of neuronal circuits."
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:May 24, 2007
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