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Does Being Bilingual Prevent Alzheimer’s

Speaking More Than One Language Could Prevent Alzheimer’s

Study suggests being bilingual can stave off Alzheimer’s symptoms

    Scientists have found that bilingual seniors are better at skills that can fade with age than their monolingual peers.hide caption

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    Scientists have found that bilingual seniors are better at skills that can fade with age than their monolingual peers.

    Not so long ago bilingualism was thought to be bad for your brain. But it looks more and more like speaking more than one language could help save you from Alzheimer’s disease.

    The latest evidence from the bilingualism-is-good-for-you crew comes from Brian Gold, a neuroscientist at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in Lexington. To test the idea, he had older people who grew up bilingual do an attention-switching task, a skill that typically fades with age. Earlier research has found that people bilingual since childhood are better at the high-order thinking called executive function as they age.

    Gold found that his bilingual seniors were better at the task, which had them quickly sorting colors and shapes, than their monolingual peers. He then added an extra dimension by sticking the people’s heads in scanners to see what was happening inside their brains. The brains of the monolingual seniors were working harder to complete the task, while the bilingual seniors’ brains were much more efficient, more like those of young adults.

    About 20 percent of Americans are bilingual and as many as 60 percent of people in cities like New York grew up speaking two languages

    Effect Is On The Attention System

    So why does being bilingual have any effect at all?

    The effect it has, I believe, is on the attention system, Bialystok told CNN. This is what cognition is, knowing what you need to attend to and blocking out the rest.

    When youre bilingual, Gollan said, you cant turn one language off, so youre constantly having to face choices that monolingual speakers dont have to make. So in addition, you have to work hard to be bilingual.

    Start Learning Another Language Today

    Most people know that being bilingual looks good on a resume and can help when you travel to a foreign country. But the benefits of speaking more than one language go much farther than that. With all the research that demonstrates the benefits of learning a second language, theres no doubt that its worth a try. If you arent bilingual already, what are you waiting for?

    Also Check: What’s The Difference Between Dementia And Alzheimer’s And Senility

    The Cognitive Benefits Of Being Bilingual

    • Being bilingual helps prevent dementia. Bilingual adults with Alzheimers take twice as long to develop symptoms than their monolingual peers. The average age of onset of dementia symptoms in monolingual adults is 71.4, while the average age of onset for bilingual adults is 75.5.
    • Being bilingual helps you concentrate on tasks. Bilingual people concentrate better than monolingual people. Theyre better at identifying relevant information.
    • Being bilingual improves cognitive abilities. Bilingual people are sharper and their brains are more alert and active, even when theyre only using one language.
    • Being bilingual increases grey matter. Grey matter is responsible for language processing, memory storage, and attention. Bilingual people have denser grey matter than their monolingual counterparts.
    • Being bilingual improves your memory. Learning a foreign language entails memorizing grammar rules and vocabulary. This mental exercise improves overall memory. Consequently, bilingual people are better at remembering lists and sequences.
    • Being bilingual improves decision-making abilities. Bilingual people tend to make more rational decisions. Theyre also surer of themselves and their decisions after thinking in their second language.

    Lifelong Reading Hobbies May Help Fend Off Dementia

    Does Being Bilingual Protect Your Brain from Dementia ...

    Stimulating activities may encourage brain to adapt and create ‘work-arounds,’ study suggests

    HealthDay Reporter

    WEDNESDAY, July 3 — Use it or lose it: Doing brain-stimulating activities from childhood — like reading books, writing letters and solving everyday problems — through old age may help prevent clinical signs of dementia such as memory loss, a new study finds.

    “Certain things increase or decrease your vulnerability to cognitive decline,” said Robert Wilson, the study’s lead author. Keeping your brain active seems to help certain brain circuits operate effectively, even if a gradual buildup of brain disease is already occurring, said Wilson, a professor of neurological and behavioral sciences at Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago.

    People who engaged in frequent mental activity in later life had a rate of mental decline that was 32 percent lower than those with average activity. Meanwhile, those with infrequent mental activity experienced a decline in mental abilities that was 48 percent faster.

    The research, published online July 3 in the journal Neurology, helps explain why one-third of people die in old age with little or no signs of problems with thinking, learning or memory, yet when brain autopsies are done, they actually have clear evidence of Alzheimer’s disease, Wilson said. “They have the disease, but it’s not expressed clinically,” he said.

    How do intellectually challenging activities help support brain function?

    Also Check: What Is The Difference Between Dementia And Senility

    Being Bilingual May Delay Alzheimer’s And Boost Brain Power

    Learning a second language and speaking it regularly can improve your cognitive skills and delay the onset of dementia, according to researchers who compared bilingual individuals with people who spoke only one language.

    Their study suggests that bilingual speakers hold Alzheimer’s disease at bay for an extra four years on average compared with monoglots. School-level language skills that you use on holiday may even improve brain function to some extent.

    In addition, bilingual children who use their second language regularly are better at prioritising tasks and multitasking compared with monolingual children, said Ellen Bialystok, a psychologist at York University in Toronto.

    “Being bilingual has certain cognitive benefits and boosts the performance of the brain, especially one of the most important areas known as the executive control system,” said Bialystok on Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, DC.

    “We know that this system deteriorates with age but we have found that at every stage of life it functions better in bilinguals. They perform at a higher level. It won’t stop them getting Alzheimer’s disease, but they can cope with the disease for longer.”

    Bialystock said her team was now researching whether using two or more languages resulted in any physical changes to the brain, in addition to improving cognition. Early results suggest that it may change brain size.

    Makes You Better At Multitasking

    The improved cognitive ability of those who are bilingual shows itself in a lot of different ways. At the most basic level, those individuals who are bilingual have consistently proven to be able to complete tasks such as puzzle solving at a faster rate than their monolingual counterparts.

    Not only that, but their ability to quickly switch between two languages and two language structures means theyre also able to switch between other tasks much more quickly, making them more effective at multitasking than their peers.

    Read Also: Puzzles For Dementia Patients

    Researchers Find That Being Bilingual Is Good Brain Food

    Speaking more than one language keeps the brain working harder and, in older people, can stave off Alzheimers for four or five years.

    Being able to converse in more than one language is good for your brain. Image by Joseph Mucira from Pixabay

    Good news for South Africans, where bilingualism and multi-lingualism is a way of life: Speaking more than one language is good for the brain.

    According to a report by broadcaster CNN published today, research done by York University in the Canadian city of Toronto has shown that, in ageing people, learning another language actually seems to hold back Alzheimers disease, a progressive disease that progressively destroys memory and other important mental functions.

    Research by Professor Ellen Bialystok, a psychologist working at the university, turned up the remarkable discovery that bilinguals are diagnosed with Alzheimers disease four to five years later than their monolingual counterparts.

    How Bilingualism And Spicy Food Alter The Risk Of Dementia

    Being Bilingual May Be The Secret To Delaying Brain Ageing

    by Karen Coffey-Carney | Jul 24, 2019 | Alzheimer’s disease, Cognitive Health, Dementia, Senior Care |

    The results of two new intriguing dementia studies have recently been announced. As always, we believe in sharing this information with family caregivers who may be wondering what their personal risk is for developing dementia. Although having a family history of dementia or Alzheimers does make you more likely to develop a neurodegenrative condition, its always wise to mitigate other risks by adopting medically proven lifestyle changes.

    Can Being Bilingual Prevent Dementia?

    Much has been made about the importance of continual learning and stretching yourself through new experiences. Now, researchers have looked at one specific form of learning: bilingualism. No one knows how learning a new language as an adult minimizes the risk of dementia, but it is has been confirmed that people who speak multiple languages on a regular basis typically develop this condition 4.5 years later than monolinguals.

    For many people, having a delay of almost five years can mean the difference between suffering from late-term dementia and passing away before the disease has a chance to rob them of their memories. Therefore, if youre currently caring for a family member with dementia, you may want to consider learning a second language to help protect yourself.

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    One Estimate Puts The Value Of Knowing A Second Language At Up To $128000 Over 40 Years

    Bialystok agrees, adding that it is impossible to examine whether bilingualism improves a childs school exam results because there are so many confounding factors. But, she says, given that at the very least it makes no difference and no study has ever shown it harms performance considering the very many social and cultural benefits to knowing another language, bilingualism should be encouraged. As for the financial benefits, one estimate puts the value of knowing a second language at up to $128,000 over 40 years.

    Immersing children in a second language may help benefit their performance in all subjects

    The result of my test in Athanasopouloss lab suggests that just 45 minutes of trying to understand another language can improve cognitive function. His study is not yet complete, but other research has shown that these benefits of learning a language can be achieved quickly. The problem is, they disappear again unless they are used and I am unlikely to use the made-up snowflake language ever again! Learning a new language is not the only way to improve executive function playing video games, learning a musical instrument, even certain card games can help but because we use language all the time, its probably the best executive-function exerciser there is. So how can this knowledge be applied in practice?

    Immersing yourself in a new language and culture may open your mind to new ways of thinking

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    There Were Warnings That Bilingual Children Would Be Confused By Two Languages Have Lower Intelligence And Behave In Deviant Ways

    There were warnings that bilingual children would be confused by two languages, have lower intelligence, low self-esteem, behave in deviant ways, develop a split personality and even become schizophrenic. It is a view that persisted until very recently, discouraging many immigrant parents from using their own mother tongue to speak to their children, for instance. This is in spite of a 1962 experiment, ignored for decades, which showed that bilingual children did better than monolinguals in both verbal and non-verbal intelligence tests.

    However, research in the last decade by neurologists, psychologists and linguists, using the latest brain-imaging tools, is revealing a swathe of cognitive benefits for bilinguals. Its all to do with how our ever-flexible minds learn to multitask.

    Split personality

    Ask me in English what my favourite food is, and I will picture myself in London choosing from the options I enjoy there. But ask me in French, and I transport myself to Paris, where the options Ill choose from are different. So the same deeply personal question gets a different answer depending on the language in which youre asking me. This idea that you gain a new personality with every language you speak, that you act differently when speaking different languages, is a profound one.

    Read Also: Are Jigsaw Puzzles Good For Dementia

    The Protective Effects Of Bilingualism

    Researchers from the University of Ghent in Belgium recently that added to the growing evidence that bilingualism can delay the onset of Alzheimers.

    For over one year researchers studied 134 people who were all undergoing treatment for probable Alzheimers. According to the study, 65 of the participants were bilingual or multilingual and the rest were monolingual. The final analysis from the researchers showed that both the manifestation and the diagnosis of Alzheimers occurred at least four years later for the bilingual or multilingual participants. The average age of an Alzheimers diagnosis for monolingual participants was 73 years but for those who were bilingual, it was 77 years.

    In their self-published study, researchers said, These findings confirm previous research suggesting that bilingualism can slow down cognitive aging and contribute to cognitive reserve. They continued:

    It seems that constantly and actively controlling two languages is like a workout for the brain. It challenges our grey cells and keeps them from degenerating.

    Bilingualism Could Prevent The Onset Of Symptoms Associated With Cognitive Decline

    Being Bilingual May Prevent Alzheimer

    Bilingualism may delay or prevent the onset of symptoms associated with dementia, a new Spanish study suggests.

    Appearing in the peer-reviewed journal Neuropsychologia, the study included 135 participants with mild cognitive impairment, 68 with Alzheimers disease, and 63 who were cognitively healthy.

    Among the participants, they were administered questionnaires that assessed their proficiency in the Catalan and Spanish languages. Their linguistic results were then compared to their medical history of onset of symptoms or diagnosis for a neurologically-based condition, like dementia.

    According to the researchers at the Open University of Catalonia and Pompeu Fabra University, participants of lifelong bilingualism led to a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment at a much later age.

    We saw that people with a higher degree of bilingualism were given a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment later than people who were passively bilingual, the studys authors stated in a news release.

    This system, in the context of neurodegenerative diseases, might offset the symptoms. So, when something does not work properly as a result of the disease, the brain has efficient alternative systems to solve it thanks to being bilingual.

    These results are discussed in the context of cognitive reserve hypotheses, suggesting that compensatory mechanisms may play a role in protecting against cognitive decline, the co-authors determined.

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    Actively Speaking Two Languages Protects Against Cognitive Impairment

    Languages are used to convey thoughts, identity, knowledge, and the way people see and understand the world. Mastering more than one language provides a gateway to other cultures, and according to a team of researchers led by scientists from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya and Pompeu Fabra University , actively using them also brings neurological benefits and protects people from cognitive impairment associated with aging.

    In a paper published in Neuropsychologia, the researchers conclude that speaking two languages on a regular basisand having done so all one’s lifeenhances cognitive reserve and delays the appearance of symptoms associated with cognitive decline and dementia.

    “The prevalence of dementia in countries where more than one language is spoken is 50% lower than in those regions where the population uses only one language to communicate,” said researcher Marco Calabria, professor at the UOC Faculty of Health Sciences and member of the University’s Cognitive NeuroLab research group and the Speech Production and Bilingualism research group, at the UPF.

    Previous work had already found that the lifelong use of two or more languages could be a key factor in increasing cognitive reserve and delaying the onset of dementia, as well as offering advantages for memory and executive functions.

    Bilingualism and Alzheimer’s

    Now, researchers want to see whether bilingualism is also beneficial for other diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

    Can Learning A Foreign Language Prevent Dementia

    You may have heard that learning another language is one method for preventing or at least postponing the onset of dementia. Dementia refers to the loss of cognitive abilities, and one of its most common forms is Alzheimers disease. At this time, the causes of the disease are not well understood, and consequently, there are no proven steps that people can take to prevent it. Nonetheless, some researchers have suggested that learning a foreign language might help delay the onset of dementia.

    To explore this possibility more deeply, lets look at some of the common misconceptions about dementia and the aging brain. First of all, dementia is not an inevitable part of the normal aging process. Most older adults do not develop Alzheimers disease or other forms of dementia. It is also important to remember that dementia is not the same thing as normal forgetfulness. At any age, we might experience difficulty finding the exact word we want or have trouble remembering the name of the person we just met. People with dementia have more serious problems, like feeling confused or getting lost in a familiar place. Think of it this way: If you forget where you parked your car at the mall, thats normal if you forget how to drive a car, that may be a signal that something more serious is going on.

    While it makes for a colorful analogy, comparing the brain to a muscle is inaccurate and misleading.

    Recommended Reading: What Color Ribbon Is Alzheimer’s

    You Will Continue To Function

    Another researcher who focuses on Alzheimers research, Tamar Gollan of the University of California, agreed with Bialystok.

    Bilingualism doesnt prevent you from getting Alzheimers disease it doesnt prevent brain damage from happening if you have the disease.

    What it does is it makes you continue to function, even in the face of having damage to the brain. You can imagine an athlete with an injury crossing the finish line, even though theyre injured.


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