Do you speak more than one language? A recent study shows that multilingualism is healthy for the brain.
Psychologist Ellen Bialystok of York University, Toronto recently conducted a study which focused on patients of Alzheimer’s disease. Out of the 450 test subjects, approximately half were bilingual, while the other half only spoke their Mother tongue.
The bilingual patients of Alzheimer’s suffered the same symptoms of brain deterioration as the patients who spoke only one language. However, the onset of Alzheimer’s began 4-5 years later in life for the patients who were fluent in two languages than it did for the senior citizens who were only raised with one.
Dr. Bialystok explained it like this: the ability to speak fluently in more than one language enabled one focus group of seniors to cope with the symptoms of Alzheimer’s better than the test subjects who did not have the advantage of multi-language fluency. As a result, bilingual Alzheimer’s patients who are in the onset of the disease tend to be about 5 years older than early-stage patients who have been exposed to only one language.
Her findings were presented at a meeting for the American Association for the Advancement of Science and was published in Neurology, 11/09/10.
Researchers believe that bilingual patients of Alzheimer’s are more functional than monolingual patients because of a difference in their brain makeup. The ability to speak more than one language stems from a skill which employs the executive control system or our brains; because bilingual people exercise that brain function more often they are less likely to succumb to the symptoms of dementia.
The executive control center of the brain is essential for the following skills:
- Problem Solving
“It’s not that being bilingual prevents the disease,” explains Bialystok. “Instead, it allows those who develop Alzheimer’s to deal with it better.”
Source: Huffington Post