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Bilingual skills may protect aging adults from dementia

By Igor I. Solar     Apr 1, 2012 in Health
Toronto - A report recently published by Canadian researchers reviews recent studies showing that bilingualism helps to protect the brain from cognitive decline and delays the onset of Alzheimer's disease and other signs of dementia.
The study entitled "Bilingualism: Consequences for mind and brain" was published on-line on March 30 in the journal "Trends in Cognitive Sciences". The study focuses on the effects of bilingualism on cognition in aging adults.
The results of the investigation led by Dr. Ellen Bialystok, Department of Psychology at York University in Toronto indicate that bilingual individuals have a greater cognitive reserve as they age, contributing to a reduced risk of Alzheimer's and signs of dementia.
“This research shows that bilingualism has a somewhat muted effect in adulthood but a larger role in older age, protecting against cognitive decline, a concept known as ‘cognitive reserve’” say the researchers in their review.
The scientists believe that the use of two languages stimulates the brain regions that are central to general attention and cognitive control. Having to manage two languages simultaneously, the brain’s control system runs continuously and provides the required practice to avoid conflicts between the languages.
“There’s a system in your brain, the executive control system. It’s a general manager. Its job is to keep you focused on what is relevant, while ignoring distractions. It’s what makes it possible for you to hold two different things in your mind at one time and switch between them.” said Bialystok in an interview with the NY Times.
Reference: Bialystok, E., Craik, F.I.M., & Luk, G. (2012). Bilingualism: Consequences for mind and brain. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16, 240-250.
More about Bilingualism, Dementia, Alzheimer's care, Cognitive ability
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