Brief: Learning a new language or music makes your brain more efficient, researchers found.

According to a new study, if you are spending your time learning to speak another language or music; you are also training your brain into being more efficient.

Researchers at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute researched and found that musicians and people who are bilingual or have learned professional music in past were utilizing fewer brain resources when completing a working memory task.

As per the study published in a journal, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, people who have bilingual or musical background have different activated brain networks and while completing a task have shown lesser brain activities than those who only speak a single language or have never undergone any formal music training.

About the findings, one of the paper’s authors who works as a senior scientist at Baycrest’s Rotman Research Institute and a professor at the University of Toronto’s Institute of Medical Science, Dr Claude Alain, stated that- “These findings show that musicians and bilinguals require less effort to perform the same task, which could also protect them against cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia.

“Our results also demonstrated that a person’s experiences, whether it’s learning how to play a musical instrument or another language, can shape how the brain functions and which networks are used.”

People who are bilingual and the musicians have long been shown to have better working memory, and the ability to keep things in mind, like remembering multiple addresses, remembering the phone numbers, performing mental math, doing logical reasoning, and more. However, scientists failed to identify why this is.

For conducting this study, the researchers analyzed the brains of 41 young adults that fall between the age group of 19-35 and those who fit into three categories, these are English-speaking non-musicians, musicians who only spoke English and bilinguals who didn’t play a musical instrument.

Each of them has undergone a brain imagery was captured while they were asked to identify whether a sound, either from a musical instrument, the environment or a human, was the same as the previous one heard.

Furthermore, the participants were also asked to identify if the sound they heard was coming from the same direction as that as the previous one or not.

According to the study performed, musicians remembered the type of sound faster than individuals in the other groups, while bilinguals and musicians performed better on the location task. Bilinguals performed at about the same level as participants who spoke only one language and didn’t play a musical instrument on remembering the sound, but they still showed less brain activity when completing the task.

“People who speak two languages may take longer to process sounds since the information is run through two language libraries rather than just one,” Dr. Alain concluded. “During this task, the brains of bilinguals showed greater signs of activation in areas that are known for speech comprehension, supporting this theory.”

Also, Dr. Alain stated that- “During this research, the brains of bilinguals showed greater signs of activation in areas that are known for speech comprehension, supporting this theory.”

As next steps, researchers are exploring the impact of art and musical training among adults to see if this leads to changes in brain function.

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