Speaking A Second Language Delays Onset Of Dementia


Speaking a second language might not just make you sound smarter; it may actually be really good for your brain health according to new research from Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in India and published this week in the journal Neurology.

In the study, 648 people with an average age of 66 who had been diagnosed with some level of dementia were evaluated.  Of the 648 people, 391 of them spoke two at least two languages, and those who spoke two languages or more were found to develop Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia four and a half years later than their counterparts who only spoke one language. There was no further delay in the onset of dementia for those who spoke more three or more languages.

Read more about dementia

What made this study particularly unique is that 14 percent of the participants were illiterate, and the results were the same regardless of that educational difference. 

Study author Suvarna Alladi, DM, said, “Our study is the first to report an advantage of speaking two languages in people who are unable to read, suggesting that a person’s level of education is not a sufficient explanation for this difference.”

 

Alladi added, “Speaking more than one language is thought to lead to better development of the areas of the brain that handle executive functions and attention tasks, which may help protect from the onset of dementia.”

The results of the study were consistent despite the participants’ age, gender, ethnicity or education which suggests that language development was the key factor in delaying the development of the disease.

Read more about brain health

“These results offer strong evidence for the protective effect of bilingualism against dementia in a population very different from those studied so far in terms of its ethnicity, culture and patterns of language use,” Alladi said.

So if you’ve been thinking about signing up for that conversational French class or dusting off those old Spanish books from college, it’s a good idea not only for your cultural development, but also for your brain health.

 

Photo: lilivanili


By Sarah O'Neill Fernandez| April 13, 2014
Categories:  Live

About the Author

Sarah O'Neill Fernandez

Sarah O'Neill Fernandez

Sarah Fernandez is a freelance writer and designer specializing in home decorating and parenting. She loves gardening and the beach.

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