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In Perspective, Planet: Ehancing the brain!

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
How do we benefit from learning new things? For example a second language?

A recent study shows that bilingual people are able to find the correct meaning of voice on a background of extraneous noise.




"Prof Nina Kraus, who led the research, said: "The bilingual's enhanced experience with sound results in an auditory system that is highly efficient, flexible and focused in its automatic sound processing, especially in challenging or novel listening conditions."

Co-author Viorica Marian said: "People do crossword puzzles and other activities to keep their minds sharp. But the advantages we've discovered in dual language speakers come automatically simply from knowing and using two languages.

"It seems that the benefits of bilingualism are particularly powerful and broad, and include attention, inhibition and encoding of sound."

Musicians appear to gain a similar benefit when rehearsing, say the researchers.

Past research has also suggested that being bilingual might help ward off dementia."


Perhaps, that's a going to extend to learning photography and ability to discern important things around us amongst the overabundance of stimulation we get every day. I wonder?


Asher
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
Past research has also suggested that being bilingual might help ward off dementia.
What if one learns more than two languages, then? Is that a way to completely avoid dementia or is there a maximum number of languages which, when exceeded, makes you downright crazy?
 

Mark Hampton

New member
What if one learns more than two languages, then? Is that a way to completely avoid dementia or is there a maximum number of languages which, when exceeded, makes you downright crazy?
I think two has done you in man - your mad. I learn scottish and a bit of ungerlish and I still canny make a proper picture - asher we are doomed !
 

Tom dinning

Registrant*
What if one learns more than two languages, then? Is that a way to completely avoid dementia or is there a maximum number of languages which, when exceeded, makes you downright crazy?
I'm still working on one language. One day I might have a go at Teenspeak.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
What if one learns more than two languages, then? Is that a way to completely avoid dementia or is there a maximum number of languages which, when exceeded, makes you downright crazy?
I doubt it! You are still going to have to take your wine and whisky or get yourself 2 more girlfriends to escape reality. Tom Dinning and I, being grandfathers can both drink and get away with stories that impress 4 year olds and they have no idea that we are not making up weird tales, that's just how we see things.

Seriously, the current evidence is that the adult brain is very plastic and not fixed in that it can learn new tasks and even repurpose sections of the brain to make up for lost circuits. The more the brain is stimulated, the more connections and computing power one has.

One new finding of considerable importance to us is that while one can get new brain cells for any new given learned skill or capability, it does not generally alter performance in unrelated tasks and challenges. However, in an amazing new study, exercise along with learning something new, makes the new cells have increased synapses and the performance of new unrelated skills is enhanced too!

So learn a new language, musical instrument, chess or a card game and exercise regularly. As brain cells are lost, your new activity will keep in good shape!

Asher
 
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Tom dinning

Registrant*
Now, that seems a pleasant alternative. It may not cure dementia, but should make it quite bearable.
That sounds like a better idea than telling stories to my GREAT-grandchilden. I'm joining you Jerome.

Good advise, Asher. I'm aware that genetics plays its part as well. That doesn't mean we give into them, just work with them. Having taught people with disabilities, some of which gained their disability by accident or disease later in life, its amazing how, with the right processes, they can relearn skills they lost by using other parts of the brain. There are some peculiar outcomes to this at times. Doing things a bit different is quite often surprising to the person as it is to observers. My friend, Lyn suffered horendous brain damage in a car accident. She lost her memory up to the point of the accident and has poor short term memory, lost all speach, vision, and muscle coordination. After 8 years she can talk (strangely enough, with a New Zealand accent because her speech therapist is from there), her vision is back, and she is relatively active. She is only just figuring out how to add and subtract or use simple things like a remote for the TV. Yet she is now a reputable artist even having never done anything artistic in her prevous 45 years. She had to learn to recognise her own mother and daughter all over again. They say she is not the same person they knew before the accident but they love the new Lyn just as much. I never knew the old Lyn. The new one is a very motivated person and a great advocate for brain damage victims.
You can read more about Lyn here:
http://lyntemby.com.au/

Cheers
Tom
 

Michael Seltzer

New member
Originally Posted by Jerome Marot:
What if one learns more than two languages, then? Is that a way to completely avoid dementia or is there a maximum number of languages which, when exceeded, makes you downright crazy?
-------------

Amounts to the same thing, doesn't it?

I'm guessing this is related to what some have said, that learning a second language can be difficult, but once you have two, adding another is easier. Once your bilingual, the structures and functions in the brain that multilingualism need are already in place, so the next language is simply a matter of learning syntax, vocabulary, usage, etc., not building synapses. Probably also means the big bump in benefits comes with two. After that, the ROI decreases a bit. But maybe there are benefits they don't know about yet with more than two… (like a bigger pool to get those two more girlfriends from).
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
Once your bilingual, the structures and functions in the brain that multilingualism need are already in place, so the next language is simply a matter of learning syntax, vocabulary, usage, etc., not building synapses.
That is an interesting theory, but if it were true, people knowing for example English and French would learn Chinese or Russian easily. It is not quite so.
 

fahim mohammed

Active member
Very interesting Asher. I wonder if those that are bilingual in languages derived from two different root
languages ( e.g. English and Chinese ) have an advantage?

At my age, I have to be aware of anything that would give me even a small advantage later on..before dementia really sets in!!

Thanks for this piece of good news.
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
That is an interesting theory, but if it were true, people knowing for example English and French would learn Chinese or Russian easily. It is not quite so.
My experience is that kids with two languages under their belt have unique intellectual advantage. Also approach a 3rd language with far less barriers that just English speaking kids, as if they have special keys to get entrance to the new world. Actually, Jerome, there's data in that direction here with Russian, Hebrew and English.

Moreover, there's data to support the special brain processing and even anatomy changes going on in bilinguals.

  • Process: For example "reading words in a second language is influenced by the native language through automatic and very fast word translation in the bilingual brain" "Researchers in The University of Nottingham's School of Psychology set out to explore whether Chinese-English bilinguals translate English words automatically into Chinese without being aware of this process." When identifying words unrelated in English but related by the graphics of Chinese character, these were processed instantly, implying immediate unconscious classification of English words in the milieu of the Chinese mother tongue. Read more here. Also work at Penn State University, imply "cognitive advantages as multi-tasking," said Kroll, director of the Center for Language Science. "Bilinguals seem to be better at this type of perspective taking."

  • Brain Structure: Remarkably, intense immersive training in a new language actually grows the size of parts of the brain specific to spatial cognition and language ability. ""We were surprised that different parts of the brain developed to different degrees depending on how well the students performed and how much effort they had had to put in to keep up with the course," says Johan Mårtensson, a researcher in psychology at Lund University, Sweden.

    Students with greater growth in the hippocampus and areas of the cerebral cortex related to language learning (superior temporal gyrus) had better language skills than the other students. In students who had to put more effort into their learning, greater growth was seen in an area of the motor region of the cerebral cortex (middle frontal gyrus). The areas of the brain in which the changes take place are thus linked to how easy one finds it to learn a language and development varies according to performance.
Previous research from other groups has indicated that Alzheimer's disease has a later onset in bilingual or multilingual groups.


"Even if we cannot compare three months of intensive language study with a lifetime of being bilingual, there is a lot to suggest that learning languages is a good way to keep the brain in shape," says Johan Mårtensson."

Here's the deal, besides the language one gets, the brain is forced to be alert to more ways of looking at things with far better libraries of ideas, for that's what words are, each, in their native language being grown from their own sets of metaphors, links to poetry, parables and wisdom. Even color perception can be enhanced as the boundaries of our distinction of separate colors depends on our cultures. so we are not only enriched for language, but also have new dimensions in appreciation of so many other things we may not be aware of. With each new language one is also receiving more than text, meaning and syntax. Along with the obvious advantages of speaking to people in their native tongue, one also gets to mine their culture. One receives, gratis, the inheritance of 50,000 years of that cultures unique values, measures of things and insights as to how different matters relate to each other.

Besides, any chance of staving of Alzheimer's dementia would alone be a good reason for being multilingual! Hmm! I think with my current status, I'd better add another language ASAP!

Asher
 

Doug Kerr

Well-known member
Hi, Asher,

My experience is that kids with two languages under their belt have unique intellectual advantage.
Much of that comes just from having learned to deal with the reality that there can be such things as different word orders than the one we have used all our life, or that there can be such a concept as agreement in number between adjectives and nouns, or that there can be a gender property for genderless things, or that there can be tenses other the the ones we are used to. It is the fact that there can be such things that is the first hurdle, and once we have come to grips with that (which we only have to do once), we are in a much better position to learn about other such things.

Another situation is if the second language is learned formally (and of course it isn't always), it is likely that the concepts are explained better than they were in the formal instruction in one's native language (in part because we gain fluency in our native language over a long period, much of it just by immersion, and so a lot of things are not addressed in detail in the formal study).

For example, I don't know whether the concept of the subjunctive mood was ever taught to me in my English grammar courses in grade school, but if so,I ignored it.

When I studied French in junior high school, the concept was thoroughly explained ("Si jètais roi"), and I could immediately see the close parallel with the corresponding English syntax ("If I were King"), which has since been very helpful to me.

Best regards.

Doug
 

jake klein

New member
That is an interesting theory, but if it were true, people knowing for example English and French would learn Chinese or Russian easily. It is not quite so.
I took french for 6 years and still can not produce a sentence.


Poor Debbie, We've been together for almost 9 years and I still only know a few bits of Laotian, but I do admit I have never really tried to learn so who knows. I'm trying to just pick it up as we go. Funny thing is I easily pick up on what is going on during laos conversations like the mood of the conversation, etc.


Now Jacob on the other hand, he can count to 20 in English, Laos and Spanish before he hit 3 years old. I bet he'll surpass Debbie and me by age 10!
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
I took french for 6 years and still can not produce a sentence.
You have to sit at it and apply yourself as if it's so important to you. That then grows your brain to accommodate the language and spatial tasks.

Poor Debbie, We've been together for almost 9 years and I still only know a few bits of Laotian, but I do admit I have never really tried to learn so who knows. I'm trying to just pick it up as we go. Funny thing is I easily pick up on what is going on during laos conversations like the mood of the conversation, etc.
Sorry, Jake, you need to work towards fluency for it to make a lot of difference. Laotian would be a great language as you have two people always by your side with whom you can get an immersive experience and the syntax is likely to be different than English.

Now Jacob on the other hand, he can count to 20 in English, Laos and Spanish before he hit 3 years old. I bet he'll surpass Debbie and me by age 10!
He'd benefit from formal training in one of the foreign languages. Spanish would work very well. You'll be giving jake a headstart over his peers in all tasks. Anyway, that's what I have come to believe. :)

Asher
 
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Michael Seltzer

New member
That is an interesting theory, but if it were true, people knowing for example English and French would learn Chinese or Russian easily. It is not quite so.
(Okay, I don't know what this says about brain enhancement that Jerome Marot responds to my post almost immediately and I respond to his six frickin'' months later, but…)

I'm curious. First, I was thinking "easier," not "easy;" so is it not the case that someone who has learned two related languages (English and French) can learn another language from a different group (Chinese or Russian) more easily? If not, that's quite interesting.
 

Jerome Marot

Well-known member
so is it not the case that someone who has learned two related languages (English and French) can learn another language from a different group (Chinese or Russian) more easily? If not, that's quite interesting.
In any case, it would be difficult to prove. For example, amongst the French speaking people, you have people who find learning Russian difficult and people who find it easy. If you consider the French speaking people who learned English, you will still find some who find Russian difficult (me...) and some who find it easy. Measuring the effect of knowing the English language on the "felt difficulty to learn the Russian language" would be rather tricky: you would need an accurate measurement on "how difficult it is to learn a new language". Moreover, you would need to correct it for the effect that some people are better than other at learning languages, generally. I am not really aware of a such study.
 

Michael Seltzer

New member
Measuring the effect of knowing the English language on the "felt difficulty to learn the Russian language" would be rather tricky...
Statistics is an amazing thing: subtle, malleable, complex (nearly indecipherable at times- which is probably why so many people use it so poorly, and why most of the rest of us can't tell when it's being used well). I wonder if it might be easier, in an odd way, to look at "felt difficulty," because it is an experience and so, I think, would primarily be a matter of talking to people- through questionnaires, most likely- and applying the appropriate statistical analysis. You might even be able to account for the fact that some people find it easier to learn languages generally (again, you ask them). To try to asses "real" difficulty in learning language would require the community to first agree, to some extent, on the markers of language acquisition, and then on appropriate tools of measurement. And therein lies many long-standing arguments in science.

In any case, I'm not aware of any such study, either (though my not being aware is statistically meaningless). I am jealous of you bi- and multi-linguists, as I've not been able to learn a second language (some would argue I've barely been able to learn a first one).
 

Asher Kelman

OPF Owner/Editor-in-Chief
In any case, I'm not aware of any such study, either (though my not being aware is statistically meaningless). I am jealous of you bi- and multi-linguists, as I've not been able to learn a second language (some would argue I've barely been able to learn a first one).
Michael,

Yes, community impressions are important and can be amazingly consistent, like George bush II was, for much of his tenure, fairly unimpressive as president or that Donald Trump is rather pompous. Fortunately, neuroscientists can use much more rigid tools than impressions of the public sentiment. Measurements of brain structure activity to growth by PET scan and MRI respectively, after incense language immersion and fluent mastery have shown where brain activity is then what grows.

The Tel Avivi foreign and native language stuffy also is well designed and clearly interoperable by anyone with a modern education.

Asher
 

fahim mohammed

Active member
I do not why make such a big issue out of it

Either one can, can't or won't. We all cannot be Omar Khayyam, or Vermeer, or Keppler.
 

fahim mohammed

Active member
But we might better appreciate them! At least, we might catch up with you! :)

Asher
I agree...upto a point. Want to appreciate Vermeer, see his works. Want to appreciate Keppler, study how the Mars Spacecrafts calculated their trajectories.

After all it would be dismal world if all of us were Al-Jabr.
 
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Jerome Marot

Well-known member
I agree...unto a point. Want to appreciate Vermeer, see his works. Want to appreciate Keppler, study how the Mars Spacecrafts calculated their trajectories.

After all it would be dismal world if all of us were Al-Jabr.
It seems that Thorstein Veblen, which you cited in another thread, was not of that opinion. May I suggest rereading The Engineers and the Price System?

Some people find it easier to study how the Mars Spacecrafts calculated their trajectories than to appreciate Vermeer.
 

fahim mohammed

Active member
No. More power to all of us.

It would be a dismal world if all of us were Al-Jabr, but it would also be a dismal world if none of us were Al-Jabr.
Jerome. In this, I would agree with you.

This for Asher:

Language enhancing skills:

' ENHANCING '. To many nights in Reno? :)
 

fahim mohammed

Active member
After a lifetime of experience, it is my belief that the best brain enhancing exercise, excluding a specific
Discipline like medicine or Maths etc. , is to expose oneself to a totally different culture for an extended period of time. If one is presented with such an opportunity, it should be given very serious consideration.

Regards.
 
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