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Speaking double.

When Wilmer Valderrama moved from Venezuela to Los Angeles at age 13, he spoke Spanish but very little English. The TV star soon mastered the new language by taking classes--and even watching Sesame Street. Now scientists say that bilingualists (people who speak two languages) like Valderrama have boosted brainpower over those who speak only one.

Andrea Mechelli and colleagues, neuroscientists (scientists who study the brain) at England's University College London, discovered that learning a second language causes changes in a person's brain. Just as lifting weights builds muscle, speaking two languages bulks up a person's gray matter, the brain tissue that's vital to processing information. Another finding: The younger a person is when he or she learns a second language, the bigger the brain boost. For instance, bilingualists who learn a second language in their teens, like Valderrama, build more brainpower than adults. Today's lesson: "The earlier we learn language the better," says Mechelli.

HOLA: Wilmer Valderrama, like his character on That '70s Show, is bilingual.

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Title Annotation:Life/Brain
Author:Carney, Elizabeth
Publication:Science World
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 24, 2005
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