Bilingualism promotes hearing

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Bilingual grown-ups often have better hearing

Anyone who grows up in multiple languages ​​also trains their hearing. In one test, bilingual adolescents were able to distinguish speech from background noises much better than their monolingual peers. According to the scientists, bilingual people process sounds better in the brain stem.

Bilingualism improves the processing of sounds in the brain stem
Multilingualism not only offers more diverse opportunities to communicate, but also improves hearing. This is what the researchers headed by study leader Nina Kraus from Northwestern University in Evanston report in the science magazine "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences". According to the current study, bilingual people can distinguish syllables from noise more easily than people who were brought up in one language Test clear, in which bilingual teenagers could distinguish the syllable "there", which is not assigned to a particular language, from background noise such as music and voices much more easily than peers with only one language.

This ability is based on a more effective processing of sounds in the most primitive part of the brain, the brain stem, the researchers explain. Similar profound adjustments to the ability to hear have so far only been known by professional musicians. "Bilingual people are natural jugglers," study leader Kraus told the news agency "dpa". Because of the bilingualism, the brain constantly processes different language stimuli. The brain of children who grow up with several languages ​​is apparently more attentive to any type of language-typical stimuli. " Bilingualism thus promotes the ability to generally pick out the sound of human language from the environment and to ignore unimportant noises, "explains Kraus.

Even before the investigation, it was known that the language processing and memory centers are modified by bilingualism in the cerebral cortex. What is new, however, is the realization that this neuronal specialization also relates to subordinate skills and brain areas, the researchers said. Further investigations are intended to uncover whether such an effect also arises from the later learning of a second language.

Bilingual hearing system more effective For the study, 23 bilingual teenagers who spoke English and Spanish and 25 teenagers who only spoke English heard the syllable "there" more than 6,000 times using headphones. Meanwhile, the researchers recorded the brain flow patterns of the more primitive areas of the brain involved in hearing. The test was then repeated, but the syllable "da" was repeatedly mixed with voices from female and male speakers who mixed meaningless sentences. The researchers were able to use an electrode to determine how often and well the syllable “there” was recognized by the brain areas. "The brainstem of the bilingual teenagers reacted more clearly to the key stimulus in the form of the syllable," Kraus and her colleagues explain to the "dpa". This difference was particularly evident during the babble of voices. "The hearing system has more experience with different sounds Bilingual made more effective, focused and flexible, so it works better, especially under difficult conditions. "

Bilingualism delays Alzheimer's A research group led by Ellen Bialystok from York University in Toronto found at the beginning of last year that Alzheimer's occurred four to five years later in bilingual people than in people who only spoke one language.

According to the psychologist, bilingual people have two connections in the brain for each object - one term for each language. In contrast to people who only learned a foreign language during school, Bialystok reported that both languages ​​are always active at the same time for the bilingual children. The neural connections in the prefrontal cortex are therefore better developed in bilinguals. In addition, the two halves of the brain are more often active at the same time in bilingual people and the networking in the brain works better, the expert reported.

Alzheimer's patients who were raised bilingually also benefited later from the bilingualism. The disease occurs with a delay and the symptoms of the disease also developed much more slowly, according to Bialystok. (ag)

Read on:

Video: The neuro-cognitive consequences of bilingualism. Dr Mirjana Bozic

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