Advantages of multilingualism for the brain in early stages of Alzheimer's

Of all the activities of neural plasticity, the advantages of multilingualism and language use are the most sustainable. These take up most of the time within a day and also activate regions throughout the brain. Alzheimer's disease is the most common form of dementia and accounts for 60 to 70 percent of cases.

Advantages of multilingualism against dementia

Smiling old woman benefits from multilingual nurse

Ellen Bialystok, a respected research professor at the York Institute of Psychology, Faculty of Health, and her team tested the theory that bilingualism can increase cognitive reserve and thereby delay the onset of Alzheimer's symptoms in older patients. Her study is believed to be the first to study these transition times from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's disease in monolingual and bilingual patients.

Neurons in the nervous system 3D illustration

Although the benefits of multilingualism delay the onset of symptoms, Bialystok says that after diagnosis, the decline in adult Alzheimer's disease is much faster in bilingual people than in monolingual people because the disease is actually more serious.

“Imagine sandbags holding back the locks on a river. At some point the river will win, ”says Bialystok. “The cognitive reserve holds back the tide and by the time they were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, they already had significant pathology. However, there was no evidence because they could function because of the cognitive reserve. When she can no longer do this, the locks are completely washed out so that they fall faster. “

research results

magnetic resonance imaging examination of alzheimer's disease

In the study, the researchers examined 158 patients with mild cognitive impairment. For research, they classified bilingual people with a high cognitive reserve and monolingual people with a low cognitive reserve.

Patients were matched for age, education, and cognitive level at the time of diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment. The researchers tracked their six-month interval values ​​in a memory clinic. They wanted to determine at what point the diagnosis changed from mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer's disease. The transition time for bilinguals was significantly faster than for monolinguals who needed 2.6 years to switch to Alzheimer's. This difference indicates that bilingual patients had more neuropathology at the time of diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment. Compared to monolinguals, they also had the same level of cognitive function.

These results add to a growing body of evidence. Above all, these show that bilinguals are more resistant to dealing with neurodegeneration than monolinguals. Due to the cognitive reserve, they work at a higher functional level. That means many of these people will be independent longer, says Bialystok.

“Given that there is no effective treatment for Alzheimer's or dementia, you can only hope that these people work in such a way that they live independently so they don't lose touch with family and friends.”

older female hands puzzle pieces

This study adds new insights by showing that the decline is faster after crossing a clinical threshold, presumably because more diseases are already present in the brain.

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