Bilingualism is thought to improve cognition and delay dementia in older adults. While prior research has investigated the impact of learning more languages than one, ruling out ‘reverse causality’ has proven difficult. ‘The crucial question is whether people improve their cognitive functions through learning new languages or whether those with better baseline cognitive functions are more likely to become bilingual,’ Bak asked. For the current study, researchers relied on data of 835 native speakers of English who were born and living in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Some 262 participants reported to be able to communicate in at least one language other than English. ‘The findings indicate that those who spoke two or more languages had significantly better cognitive abilities,’ the researchers added. The strongest effects were seen in general intelligence and reading. The effects were present in those who acquired their second language early as well as late. ‘These findings are of considerable practical relevance. Millions of people around the world acquire their second language later in life. Our study shows that bilingualism, even when acquired in adulthood, may benefit the aging brain,’ Bak concluded. The study was published in the journal Annals of Neurology.
Can speaking two languages save you from dementia?
It’s a great thing that we Indians speak so many different languages. Most of us speak two or more languages and that apparently cuts down our risk of developing dementia! A new study has shown that people, who speak more than 1 language, tend to develop dementia up to 5 years later than those who are monolingual.
A team of scientists examined almost 650 dementia patients and assessed when each one had been diagnosed with the condition. The study was carried out by researchers from the University of Edinburgh and Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad (India). They found that people who spoke two or more languages experienced a later onset of Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia and frontotemporal dementia.
The bilingual advantage extended to illiterate people who had not attended school. This confirms that the observed effect is not caused by differences in formal education. It is the largest study so far to gauge the impact of bilingualism on the onset of dementia – independent of a person’s education, gender, and occupation and whether they live in a city or in the country, all of which have been examined as potential factors influencing the onset of dementia. The team of researchers said that further studies are needed to determine the mechanism, which causes the delay in the onset of dementia