When that happened (and one of those three has happened to most of us), what went through your mind? Most importantly, what did you decide was the cause of your mental slip? Maybe you said to yourself, I didn’t sleep well last night, or, I have been really distracted lately, or, I have been under too much stress, or (hopfully not) I must be getting Alzheimer’s.
If these mental slips happen to you regularly and often, you may have wondered, what can I do to improve my mind? How can I get back to that mental sharpness I once had? Of course there are many things that I can suggest for you. For now, we are going to look at one concrete thing you can do for your brain—speak a second language.
A 2010 study conducted at the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto, Canada, found that persons who spoke two languages were delayed in the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease by an average of 5.1 years, over persons who spoke only one language. The researchers believe that knowing that second language gives us backup resources in our brains to keep them working, even when threatened with Alzheimer’s Disease. Just knowing that second language helped people in the study keep their wits about them an average of five more years.
I feel rather proud of myself on this point. A couple of years ago I bought a computer program (Rosetta Stone) that is helping me learn Spanish, so that I can communicate with my Mexican friends and colleagues when I visit Mexico. It is nice to know that I am improving not only my relationships with my friends, but my brain power as well.
Think about how this information can work for you. Could you dust off your high school French and kick your brain back into fourth gear? Could you take a community education course in German, then reward yourself with a trip to Berlin to try out your new skills? Whether you decide to learn a new language or try something entirely different, I encourage you to keep your mind active. I invite you back for my next post: Using music to strengthen your mind.
James Gardiner, Ph.D. Neuropsychologist