Bilingual People May Have More Efficient Brains

By: Tanya Lewis
Published: 11/13/2014 09:48 AM EST on LiveScience

People who speak two languages may have brains that are more efficient at language processing and other tasks, new research suggests.

Scientists have long assumed that the “bilingualism advantage” — the enhanced ability to filter out important information among nonimportant material — stems from how bilingual people process language. The new study confirms that assumption, and goes on to suggest that bilingual people are more efficient at higher-level brain functions such as ignoring other irrelevant information, said Ellen Bialystok, a psychologist at York University in Toronto, who was not involved in the research.

In the study, brain scans showed that people who spoke only one language had to work harder to focus on a single word, according to the study published today (Nov. 12) in the journal Brain and Language.

People who are bilingual are constantly activating both languages in their brain, choosing which to use and which to ignore, said study leader Viorica Marian, a linguistic psychologist at Northwestern University.

Compared with people who speak only a single tongue, “bilinguals are much better at ignoring irrelevant words,” Marian told Live Science. [10 Ways —> Read More Here


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