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Speaking More than One Language Could Delay Dementia

brainNew research suggests that speaking more than onelanguage may delaydifferent kinds of dementia. That is, the loss of mental ability. In fact, researchers sayspeaking two languages appears to be more importantthan the level of education in defending againstdementias.

A study in India examined the effect of knowing more than one language indelaying the first signs of several disorders. These included Alzheimer’sdisease, frontotemporal dementia, vascular dementia, Lewy bodies dementiaand mixed dementias.

Researchers studied nearly 650 people whose average age was 66. Twohundred forty of those studied suffered from Alzheimer’s -- the most commonform of mental decline.

Three-hundred-ninety-one of the subjects spoke two or more languages.Investigators found the dementias began about four-and-a-half years later inthose who were bilingual compared to those who spoke only one language. The level of education had no effect on the age at the first sign of dementia.
 Thomas Bak helped to organize the study. He is with the Center of CognitiveAging at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. He suggests that individualswho speak more than one language train their brains by moving back and forthbetween different words and expressions.
Mr. Bok believes this effort improves what scientists call executive functioningor attention to tasks. This mental ability often weakens in people withdementias.
Researchers found there was no extra gain in speaking more than twolanguages. They also did not see a delay in the first signs of Lewy bodiesdementia. The disorder causes patients to see or experience things that donot really exist. It can also cause sufferers to move back and forth betweenbeing wide awake and really sleepy.
Mr. Bak says it does not appear important whether you learn a language at ayoung age or later in life.
“So it’s not something you sort of say that '((if)) you missed the boat when youdo not do it as a baby.'  It is something that is still quite useful and powerfulwhen you do it as an adult.”
Scientists found that speaking more than one language helped delay the firstsigns of dementias even in those who could not read. An article on thebenefits of bilingualism on dementias is published in the journal Neurology.





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