Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Bilingualism Has Protective Effect In Delaying Onset Of Dementia By Four Years, Canadian Study Shows

Date:
January 12, 2007
Source:
Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care
Summary:
Canadian scientists have found astonishing evidence that the lifelong use of two languages can help delay the onset of dementia symptoms by four years compared to people who are monolingual.

Canadian scientists have found astonishing evidence that the lifelong use of two languages can help delay the onset of dementia symptoms by four years compared to people who are monolingual.

There has been much interest and growing scientific literature examining how lifestyle factors such as physical activity, education and social engagement may help build "cognitive reserve" in later years of life. Cognitive reserve refers to enhanced neural plasticity, compensatory use of alternative brain regions, and enriched brain vasculature, all of which are thought to provide a general protective function against the onset of dementia symptoms.

Now scientists with the Rotman Research Institute at the Baycrest Research Centre for Aging and the Brain have found the first evidence that another lifestyle factor, bilingualism, may help delay dementia symptoms. The study is published in the February 2007 issue of Neuropsychologia (Vol.45, No.2).

"We are pretty dazzled by the results," says principal investigator Ellen Bialystok, Ph.D., whose research team at Baycrest included psychologist Dr. Fergus Craik, a world authority on age-related changes in memory processes, and neurologist Dr. Morris Freedman, an eminent authority on understanding the mechanisms underlying cognitive impairment due to diseases such as Alzheimer's.

"Our study found that speaking two languages throughout one's life appears to be associated with a delay in the onset of symptoms of dementia by four years compared to those who speak one language," says Dr. Bialystok, Professor of Psychology at York University and Associate Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest.

The study follows on the heels of previous published reports by Dr. Bialystok and colleagues showing that bilingualism enhances attention and cognitive control in both children and older adults. Those results inspired Bialystok and her research team to ask, "So what does this mean for the onset of dementia?"

In this present study, researchers set out to answer that question by examining the diagnostic records of 184 patients who came to Baycrest's Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic between 2002 and 2005 with cognitive complaints. Of that group, 91 were monolingual and 93 were bilingual. The bilinguals included speakers of 25 different languages, the most prevalent being Polish, Yiddish, German, Romanian and Hungarian.

Researchers found that 132 patients met criteria for probable Alzheimer's; the remaining 52 were diagnosed with other dementias. Patient data included Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) scores (a measure of general cognitive functioning), years of education and occupation. The MMSE scores were equivalent for the monolingual and bilingual groups at their initial visit to the clinic, indicating comparable levels of impairment. The age of onset of cognitive impairment was determined by the interviewing neurologist at the first clinic visit who asked patients and their families or caregivers when symptoms were first noticed.

The researchers determined that the mean age of onset of dementia symptoms in the monolingual group was 71.4 years, while the bilingual group was 75.5 years. This difference remained even after considering the possible effect of cultural differences, immigration, formal education, employment and even gender as influencers in the results.

"There are no pharmacological interventions that are this dramatic," says Dr. Freedman, who is Head of the Division of Neurology, and Director of the Memory Clinic at Baycrest, referring to the four-year delay in onset of symptoms for bilingual patients.

"The data show a huge protective effect," adds co-investigator Dr. Craik, who cautioned that this is still a preliminary finding but nonetheless in line with a number of other recent findings about lifestyle effects on dementia.

The team is working on a follow-up study that will further examine bilingualism and dementia onset. They plan to conduct interviews and cognitive assessments on bilingual and monolingual patients in Baycrest's Memory Clinic and follow them for a few years.

The study in Neuropsychologia was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Baycrest is an internationally renowned academic health sciences centre affiliated with the University of Toronto. Baycrest provides a spectrum of health care services to older adults, and conducts basic and applied research with a strong focus on brain functioning and mental health.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. "Bilingualism Has Protective Effect In Delaying Onset Of Dementia By Four Years, Canadian Study Shows." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 12 January 2007. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070111133129.htm>.
Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. (2007, January 12). Bilingualism Has Protective Effect In Delaying Onset Of Dementia By Four Years, Canadian Study Shows. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070111133129.htm
Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care. "Bilingualism Has Protective Effect In Delaying Onset Of Dementia By Four Years, Canadian Study Shows." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/01/070111133129.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Mind & Brain News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Why Do People Believe We Only Use 10 Percent Of Our Brains?

Newsy (July 22, 2014) The new sci-fi thriller "Lucy" is making people question whether we really use all our brainpower. But, as scientists have insisted for years, we do. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Do Obese Women Have 'Food Learning Impairment'?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) Yale researchers tested 135 men and women, and it was only obese women who were deemed to have "impaired associative learning." Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Does Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks Boost Urge To Drink?

Does Mixing Alcohol and Energy Drinks Boost Urge To Drink?

Newsy (July 18, 2014) A new study suggests that mixing alcohol with energy drinks makes you want to keep the party going. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Pot Cooking Class Teaches Responsible Eating

Pot Cooking Class Teaches Responsible Eating

AP (July 18, 2014) Following the nationwide trend of eased restrictions on marijuana use, pot edibles are growing in popularity. One Boston-area cooking class is teaching people how to eat pot responsibly. (July 18) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins