Tags: Alzheimer's/Dementia | bilingual | counters | brain | changes | Alzheimers

Bilingualism May Counter Brain Changes in Alzheimer's

Image: Bilingualism May Counter Brain Changes in Alzheimer's

By    |   Wednesday, 07 February 2018 12:04 PM

For more than a decade, research has shown that speaking another language is good for your brain, but a new study found that being bilingual can counter the brain changes in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), and mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that is a risk for developing Alzheimer's.

"Our new study contributes to the hypothesis that having two languages exercises specific brain regions and can increase cortical thickness and gray matter density," said researcher Natalie Phillips, a professor in the Department of Psychology at Concordia University.

"And it extends these findings by demonstrating that these structural differences can be seen in the brains of multilingual AD and MCI patients," she said.

Phillips and her team were the first to use high-resolution, whole-brain MRI data, and sophisticated analysis techniques to measure cortical thickness and tissue density within specific brain areas. Previous studies had used CT scans, which are much less sensitive, she said.

Specifically, they studied language and cognition control areas in the frontal regions of the brain, and medial temporal lobe structures. Both of these areas of the brain are important for memory, and both atrophy in AD and MCI patients.

"Our results contribute to research that indicates that speaking more than one language is one of a number of lifestyle factors that contributes to cognitive reserve," Phillips says.

"Our study seems to suggest that multilingual people are able to compensate for AD-related tissue loss by accessing alternative networks or other brain regions for memory processing."  

An earlier study from the University of Edinburgh found that learning to speak a second language protects aging brains even if the new language is learned as an adult. Previous studies had shown that people who were bilingual as children had extra protection against dementia as they grew older, but the new study found the added benefits are present even if the new language was learned later in life.

Study participants were given mental tests as children and then again in their 70s. Those who spoke more than one language, whether acquired as a child or as an adult, showed less cognitive decline than those who only spoke one language.

A recent study published in Child Development found that being bilingual can also benefit autistic children. Researchers found that bilingual children with Autism Spectrum Disorder performed significantly better on complex parts of a test that required them to shift between tasks than children with ASD who were unilingual.

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For more than a decade, research has shown that speaking another language is good for your brain, but a new study found that being bilingual can counter the brain changes in patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD), and mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a condition that is a...
bilingual, counters, brain, changes, Alzheimers
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2018-04-07
Wednesday, 07 February 2018 12:04 PM
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