Bilingual baby brains show increased activities

Posted on April 5, 2016

Photo: flickr

Many brain studies show that bilingual adults have more activity in areas associated with executive function, a set of mental abilities that includes problem-solving, shifting attention and other desirable cognitive traits.

Now new findings reveal that this bilingualism-related difference in brain activity is evident as early as 11 months of age, just as babies are on the verge of producing their first words.

"Our results suggest that before they even start talking, babies raised in bilingual households are getting practice at tasks related to executive function," said Naja Ferjan RamĂ­rez, lead author and a research scientist at the Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences (I-LABS) at the University of Washington.

"This suggests that bilingualism shapes not only language development, but also cognitive development more generally," she said.

The study also gives evidence that the brains of babies from bilingual families remain more open to learning new language sounds, compared with babies from monolingual families.

"Monolingual babies show a narrowing in their perception of sounds at about 11 months of age -- they no longer discriminate foreign-language sounds they successfully discriminated at 6 months of age," said co-author Patricia Kuhl, co-director of I-LABS.

"But babies raised listening to two languages seem to stay 'open' to the sounds of novel languages longer than their monolingual peers, which is a good and highly adaptive thing for their brains to do," Kuhl said.


Category(s):Parenting

Source material from University of Washington


Mental Health News