LEARNING another language boosts brain power, no matter how old you are, according to new research.
Tests carried out on students suggest that acquiring a new language improves a person’s attention after only a week of study.
Researchers also found that the benefits for mental agility could be maintained with regular practice.
Edinburgh University researchers assessed different aspects of mental alertness in a group of 33 students aged 18 to 78 who had taken part in a one-week Scottish Gaelic course.
They compared the results with those of people who had completed a one week course  but not involving learning a new language and with a group who had not completed any course.
After one week, improvements in attention were found in both groups participating in intensive courses, but only those learning a second language were significantly better than those not involved in any courses.
The improvement was found for all ages, from 18 to 78, which researchers say demonstrates the benefits of language learning also in later life. Nine months after the initial course all those who had practised five hours or more per week improved from their baseline performance.
Lead researcher Dr Thomas Bak, of the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, said: “It is never too late to start a novel mental activity such as learning a new language.”
The study was completed with the help of students from Sabhal Mor Ostaig, the National Centre for Gaelic language and culture on the Isle of Skye, Highland.