Researchers and doctors confirm that bilingualism and language learning have an immediate effect on brain size.
There is a lively debate as to whether bilingualism contributes to brain reserve, thereby delaying the onset of symptoms associated with neurodegeneration.
In a study published in 2019, carried out on a large scale (399 people) by members of medical faculties and research centres in Germany, it was found that brain volume was systematically higher among bilinguals than among monolinguals. This difference tends to disappear at older ages where the decline is more pronounced for bilinguals than for monolinguals.
Bilingualism may indeed contribute to brain reserve at an advanced age and thus delay the onset of symptoms of neurodegeneration for up to 5 years.
This confirms the results of previous studies which have shown that :
- not only early bilingualism, but also the acquisition of a second language in kindergarten or later in adulthood have a positive effect on cognitive abilities later in life, and
- language learning has an immediate effect on the volume of grey matter.
Read the full article "Neurobiology of Aging".