Thursday, May 8, 2008

Being Multi-lingual Improves Mental Fitness

Knowing and speaking a second or third language may protect the brain against the cognitive decline associated with aging.

A study conducted by Dr. Gitit Kavé from the Herczeg Institute on Aging at Tel Aviv University concludes that seniors who are multi-lingual do better on cognitive functioning tests. Dr. Kavé is a clinical neuro-psychologist.

Previous research has indicated that education plays a large role in preserving mental fitness as we age, but it appears that speaking two or more languages has even a greater impact than education.

Why would language have such an impact? Speaking another language could be like exercise for the brain , strengthening it. It may create new links in the brain, increasing its plasticity.

But whether or not being multilingual was the main reason for the results, Dr. Kavé thinks that learning a new language is always a positive experience.

While the controversy continues as to whether or not parents should introduce their young children to a second language, Kavé thinks that learning a new language is only a good thing, even if it isn’t intended to stave off mental decline in old age.

“In my professional opinion, learning a new language can only do good things,” she believes. “Other languages are good for you at any age. They allow for a flexibility of thought and a channel for understanding another culture better, as well as your own,” says Kavé.

TAU Study Finds Connection Between Mental Fitness and Multi-Lingualism

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Synesthesia May Have Common Patterns

Grapheme-Color Synesthesia refers to the phenomenon in which some people experience colors when they see, hear or think of letters and numbers. Usually a synesthete will always see the same color as being related to a specific letter. But now, new research shows that there may be common letter-number combinations that are shared by a majority of those with synesthesia.

A study of 70 synesthetes, and a reanalysis of 19 more in previously published data finds that a common combination exists for more common letters and numbers. The letter A is usually red, for instance.

While science continues to study the ways in which the brain crosses these different senses to make the synesthesia experience, it is illuminating to see that there is consistency amongst synesthetes.

Perhaps it is not surprising then that A was The Scarlet Letter. Perhaps there is an underlying pattern in brain processes that produce these associations, yet that are "experienced" by the synesthete in actual senses involving color, sound and vision.

The new research done by psychologists Julia Simner, of the University of Edinburgh and Jamie Ward of the University of Sussex appears in the April issue of Psychological Science.