In the Latino community, being bilingual is particularly important because Spanish helps you connect with your roots, especially when you travel to Latin America. Now, new research findings show that bilingual people are great at saving brain power, that is. To do a task, the brain recruits different networks or the highways on which different types of information flow, depending on the task to be done.
The team of Ana Inés Ansaldo, Ph.D., a researcher at the Centre de recherche de l’Institut Universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal and a professor at Université de Montréal, compared what are known as functional brain connections between seniors who are monolingual and seniors who are bilingual. Her team established that years of being bilingual change how the brain carries out tasks that require concentrating on one piece of information without becoming distracted by other information. This makes the brain more efficient and economical with its resources.
To arrive at this finding, Dr. Ansaldo’s team asked two groups of seniors (one of monolinguals and one of bilinguals) to perform a task that involved focusing on visual information while ignoring spatial information. The researchers compared the networks between different brain areas as people did the task. They found that monolinguals recruited a larger circuit with multiple connections, whereas bilinguals recruited a smaller circuit that was more appropriate for the required information. These findings were published in the Journal of Neurolinguistics.
Two different ways of doing the same task
The participants did a task that required them to focus on visual information (the color of an object) while ignoring spatial information (the position of the object). The research team observed that the monolingual brain allocates a number of regions linked to visual and motor function and interference control, which are located in the frontal lobes. This means that the monolingual brain needs to recruit multiple brain regions to do the task.