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Learning a Second Language Linked to Increases in Brain Tissue and Quality of Life in Small Study of People with MS

December 30, 2019

Austrian researchers found increases in brain tissue volume in areas of the brain related to language in 11 adults in early stages of MS and 12 adults without MS who completed a second language (English) learning program. The participants with MS also showed improvements in health related quality of life. The team is led by Rainer Ehling, MD (Medical University of Innsbruck, Austria).
  • Participants completed an 8-week English language training program consisting of three hours each week in a classroom setting, along with extra activities completed outside the classroom. They underwent brain MRI scans before and after the program, and completed tests that measure health-related quality of life.
  • This small study provides some evidence of neuroplasticity, the brain’s ability to adapt or rewire following damage to preserve function. Studies in people without MS have shown similar language-related neuroplasticity, and have linked this finding to improvements in cognitive processes. This encourages further study of how learning a second language may help to address cognitive problems in MS.
  • “Second language learning induces grey matter volume increase in people with multiple sclerosis” was published December 23, 2019 in PLOS ONE. This open-access journal can be read by anyone without a subscription.

About Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis is an unpredictable, often disabling disease of the central nervous system. Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to blindness and paralysis, and there is currently no cure for MS. The progress, severity and specific symptoms of MS in any one person cannot yet be predicted, but advances in research and treatment are leading to better understanding and moving us closer to a world free of MS. An estimated 1 million people live with MS in the United States. Most people with MS are diagnosed between the ages of 20 and 50, and it affects women three times more than men.


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