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Bilingual People And Alzheimer's: Why Bilingualism Is Good For Your Mental Health

By Christie Abagon , Feb 01, 2017 10:43 AM EST
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A recent study shows bilingual people have greater connectivity in key brain areas. Those who speak at least two languages may delay the onset of Alzheimer's by four to five years.

According to Health24, lead researcher Dr Daniela Perani, a professor of psychology at Vita-Salute San Raffaele University in Milan and hear team found that people who speak two or more languages seem to weather the ravages of Alzheimer's better compared to people who have only mastered one language.

Research Shows The Effects Of Being Bilingual In Protecting Against Cognitive Decline

The study involved 85 patients with Alzheimer's, and the researchers found that people who spoke two languages had greater connectivity in key brain areas, especially the part of the brain which governs "executive control," Daily Mail Online reported. "Our findings suggest that the effects of speaking two languages are more powerful than both age and education in providing a protection against cognitive decline," the authors said.

The researchers compared 45 people who spoke German and Italian with 45 people who only spoke one language - all of which are suspected to have Alzheimer's. They found that the group of bilinguals were on average five years older than the bilingual group.

People Who Are Bilingual Showed Less Severe Symptoms

The study also noted that this effect is greater in people who had greater ability in the languages, or those who have used both languages more in their lifetime, and these people show less severe symptoms compared to those who have used them less. This finding supports "cognitive reserve" that Alzheimer's cannot be cured, but people who had greater levels of education are able to overcome the brain waisting far longer.

Part of the reason why bilingual brains are better at resisting Alzheimer's is due to a lifetime of switching between languages. Without the other language interfering, it increases the density of white matter. This means that there are more connections between brain parts, thus making this part of the brain more resistant to degeneration.

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