Bilingualism May Help to Prevent Dementia

For those considering teaching their children a second language – it just got even more intriguing to do so then it already was.  Researchers from York University recently discovered through their research published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences that being bilingual increases cognitive ability – and also makes the brain more resilient in later life.

This finding may point the way to protections against dementia.  The lead of the study, Dr. Ellen Bialystok, said,

“Previous studies have established that bilingualism has a beneficial effect on cognitive development in children. In our paper, we reviewed recent studies using both behavioral and neuroimaging methods to examine the effects of bilingualism on cognition in adults.”

When monitoring those who speak two languages, they found that a bi-lingual person uses brain regions that help with general attention and with cognitive control.  This skill creates “mental flexibility.”

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In addition, they found that those who are bilingual improve their “cognitive reserve” and that this reserve can actually help to push back the onset of symptoms in people who have dementia.

As Dr. Bialystok said,

“Our conclusion is that lifelong experience in managing attention to two languages reorganizes specific brain networks, creating a more effective basis for executive control and sustaining better cognitive performance throughout the lifespan. It should not be surprising that intense and sustained experience leaves its mark on our minds and brains, and it is now clear that the bilingual brain has been uniquely shaped by experience.”