By Dr. Brian McDonough

By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The more we challenge our minds the better it is for us – and it appears this is the case in all age groups. Including infants.

An Italian study found babies who grow up in a bilingual home may enjoy greater mental flexibility before they even learn to talk. Researchers tested seven-month-old infants from bilingual and monolingual homes having them look at puppets in a square associated with a verbal cue. 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. The bilingual babies clearly were responding quicker to the change.