Friday, November 22, 2013
Bilingual Skills Might Delay Dementia and Alzheimer's
Now another, even greater side benefit of learning has been revealed by medical researchers. In India, a country of many languages and an extremely wide range of social and economic strata, researchers have noticed that dementia occurs later in patients who speak more than one language.
And two studies in Ontario add to that with evidence that bilingual speakers show a typically later onset of Alzheimer's symptoms. So far it is unclear if the progression of these brain afflictions is slower in bilingual speakers once symptoms do appear.
Hunter Communications Original News Source:
Link to article:
Speaking More Than One Language May Delay Dementia
Excerpt: "The latest evidence that speaking more than one language is a very good thing for our brains comes from a study finding dementia develops years later in bilingual people than in people who speak just one language.
The study, conducted in India and published Wednesday in the journal Neurology, is not the first to reach this conclusion. But it is the largest and comes with an intriguing new detail: The finding held up even in illiterate people — meaning that the possible effect is not explained by formal education.
Instead, the researchers say, there's something special about switching from one language to another in the course of routine communication — something that helps explain why bilingual people in the study developed dementia five years later than other people did. When illiterate people were compared with other illiterate people, those who could speak more than one language developed dementia six years later.
'We know from other studies that mental activity has a certain protective effect,' says co-author Thomas Bak, a neurologist at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. 'Bilingualism combines a lot of different mental activities. You have to switch sounds, concepts, grammatical structures, cultural concepts. It stimulates your brain all the time.'
For the study, Bak and colleagues in India reviewed medical records of 648 people with dementia who were seen in a clinic in the city of Hyderabad.
The location was key, because residents of the city, like many people in India, often speak two or three languages — typically some combination of the official language, Telugu, the Urdu dialect Dakkhini and the English increasingly used in schools, workplaces and the media, the authors write. People may speak in one language or combination at home and in neighborhoods and another at work or school, all in the course of a normal day, says co-author Suvarna Alladi, a neurologist at Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences, Hyderabad.
'Since bilingualism is more of a norm in India, bilingualism is not a characteristic of any particular socioeconomic, geographic or religious group,' she says."