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Bilingual Homes May Benefit Babies’ Brains

Babies
(Dr. Brian McDonough) Dr. Brian McDonough
Dr. Brian McDonough has been medical editor at KYW Newsradio for more...
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By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - The demographics of our country have changed over the past few decades and many more children are growing up in a bilingual home. If you are in one of these families there is some good news.

A study has found babies who grow up in a bilingual home may enjoy greater mental flexibility before they even learn to talk.

Researchers tested 7-month-old infants from bilingual and monolingual homes. The babies heard nonsense words while they looked at a screen with two white squares on it. After a certain nonsense word, a puppet would appear in one of the squares, always the same one. Very quickly, the babies learned to look at the square when they heard the trigger word anticipating the puppet. Both bilingual and monolingual infants performed well in this phase, but then researchers began to have a puppet appear in the other square. Bilingual babies noticed the switch and started looking at the new square in anticipation of the puppet while the monolingual babies kept looking at the old square.

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