Previous studies have shown that being bilingual may delay dementia, but for the first time, a Canadian study has used brain scans to offer additional proof of bilingualism’s protective effects on the brain.
Research conducted up to this point has compared older people that speak either one or two languages to gauge the age at which Alzheimer’s symptoms begin to show. Based on this kind of research, there is solid evidence that bilingual people have a later onset age for cognitive decline. The new study, published in the journal Cortex, added results from CT scans of the brains to further bolster this kind of finding.
The researchers scanned the brains of bilingual and monolingual people who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and who had comparable cognitive skills and education levels. What they found was that bilingual people with twice as much Alzheimer’s-related brain damage were cognitively at the same level as monolinguals with much less brain damage. They concluded that despite the physical brain being destroyed by
Alzheimer’s, the cognitive function of the bilingual people was significantly better preserved than that of the monolinguals.
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