Second language acquisition has proven to impact the brain in many ways. Studies have shown a distinct difference between the monolingual and the bilingual brain. These structural differences have included an observable increase in cortical thickness in bilingual individuals when compared to monolinguals. This is a significant observation since many neurological diseases and impairments have been connected to a decrease in cortical thickness. However, previous studies have focused solely on bilinguals who had acquired their second language early on in life. These studies have failed to focus on the potential impact that could be observed on the cortical thickness of individuals who acquire a language after the age of 40. This study focused on monolingual students 40 years and older, who participated in an entry level university level Spanish course and examined how their brains structurally changed after a three-month course. These results were compared to a group of adults not participating in a language course who acted as a control group. This was achieved through MRI imaging of all the participants' brains and measuring any changes in their cortical thickness. Upon completing the second round of MRI imaging, the comparison of the pre and post MRI scans yielded an observable difference between the experimental group who had participated in the Spanish course and the control group. However, these differences did not prove to be significant and should be viewed as exploratory. Future research opportunities should entail studies with a longer duration combined with a curriculum better suited to this age group.



College and Department

Spanish and Portuguese



Date Submitted


Document Type





cortical thickness, geriatric learning, monolinguals, second language acquisition, bilingualism