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Bilingualism delays onset of Alzheimer's

2011-01-02
by expatica.com

Another bonus for expats: speaking two languages can help delay the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms by as much as five years.

Ottawa -- Speaking two languages can help delay the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms by as long as five years, say Canadian scientists.

The Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute researchers examined clinical records of 211 patients diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease and found that those who spoke two or more languages consistently over many years experienced a delay in the onset of their symptoms by as long as five years.

The study was published in the November issue of Neurology.

"We are not claiming that bilingualism in any way prevents Alzheimer's or other dementias, but it may contribute to cognitive reserve in the brain which appears to delay the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms for quite some time," said lead investigator Fergus Craik.

The subjects' brains still showed deterioration from Alzheimer's regardless of language skills, however bilingualism appeared to have delayed symptoms such as memory loss, confusion, and difficulties with problem-solving and planning.

The researchers found that bilingual patients had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's 4.3 years later and had reported the onset of symptoms five years later than the monolingual patients. The groups were equivalent on measures of cognitive and occupational level, there was no apparent effect of immigration status and there were no gender differences.

There are currently no drug treatments that can delay the symptoms of Alzheimer's, the researchers noted.

The current study adds to mounting scientific evidence that lifestyle factors – such as regular cardiovascular exercise, a healthy diet, and speaking more than one language – can play a central role in how the brain copes with age-related cognitive decline and diseases such as Alzheimer's.

The study replicated findings from a 2007 study led by Ellen Bialystok of York University that found bilingual dementia patients experienced a delayed onset of their symptoms compared to monolingual patients.

Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care / AFP / Expatica

http://www.expatica.com/be/education/languages/Bilingualism_delays_onset_of_Alzheimers.html

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