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Bilingualism and Alzheimer’s disease

March 16, 2016 Blog

Everyone knows that bi- or multilingualism are wonderful attributes in terms of the ability to communicate in foreign countries and to enjoy non-English literatures and media, but researchers have discovered another, lesser known, benefit. It appears that speaking more than one language can stave off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease if you happen to be one of those susceptible to it, for up to five years.

Research led by Fergus Craik of the University of Toronto’s Baycrest Center do not claim any ability of second-language learning to actually prevent the disease, however. It is not the case that the ravages of Alzheimer’s or other dementias are absent from affected brains, but some cognitive reserve fostered by bilingualism seems to marshal compensatory mental abilities hold the symptoms at bay. These symptoms are the familiar memory loss, planning and problem solving difficulties, confusion and so on, and any mitigating of their manifestations is good tidings indeed. A five-year reprieve is a very significant benefit and a good motivator for learning another language.

These findings, which are independent of gender, corroborate the findings of a 2007 study out of York University, also in Canada, led by Ellen Bialystok.  That study found a four-year benefit to bilingualism.

Current research has not come up with Alzheimer’s medications. Behavioral factors, however, such as the acquisition of another language and its frequent use, and also regular exercise and a healthy diet, do exercise a positive effect.

For more on the subject see www.ritasturamwirkala.com