News / Health

Speaking More than One Language May Delay Onset of Dementia

Mental Stimulation Might Cut Dementia Risk
Mental Stimulation Might Cut Dementia Risk
Jessica Berman
New research suggests that speaking more than one language may delay the onset of different types of dementia.  In fact, say investigators, bilingualism appears to be more important than the level of education in warding off dementias.  

In a study carried out in India, researchers assessed the effect of bilingualism in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, which tends to strike people at a younger age, vascular dementia, Lewy bodies dementia and mixed dementias.  Nearly 650 people with an average age of 66 were studied, and 240 suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of mental decline.
 
Three hundred ninety-one of the participants spoke two or more languages.  Investigators found the dementias began about four-and-a-half years later in those who were bilingual compared to those who only spoke only one language.  The volunteers’ level of education had no effect on the outcome.

Co-author Thomas Bak of the Center of Cognitive Aging at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland speculates that those who are fluent in more than one language train their brains by switching back and forth between different words and expressions.  

Bok believes this concentration improves so-called executive functioning or attention to tasks, which tends to decline in people with dementias.

“I am suppressing the other languages.  So it means I have to be always active, selectively activating things.  And we believe that because this attention mechanism is important in different types of dementia, that is why we find this effect in different types of dementia," said Bak.

Researchers found there was no benefit in speaking more than two languages.  They also did not see a delay in the onset of Lewy bodies dementia, a progressive form of mental illness that causes hallucinations and causes sufferers to fluctuate back and forth between alertness and periods of drowsiness.

To reap the benefits, Bak says it does not appear to matter whether you learn a language at a young age or later in life.

“So it’s not something you sort of say that '[if] you missed the boat when you do not do it as a baby.'  It is something that is still quite useful and powerful when you do it as an adult," he said.

Scientists found that the benefits of bilingualism in delaying the onset of dementia occurred even in uneducated subjects.

An article on the benefits of bilingualism on dementias in published in the journal Neurology.  

You May Like

Ebola Death Toll Nears 5,000 as Virus Advances

West Africa bears heaviest burden; Mali toddler’s death raises new fears More

Jordan’s Battle With Islamic State Militants Carries Domestic Risks

Despite Western concerns that IS militants are preparing a Jordanian offensive, analysts call the kingdom's solid intel a strong deterrent More

Asian-Americans Assume Office in Record Numbers

Steadily deepening engagement in local politics pays off for politicians like Chinese-American Judy Chu More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
October 25, 2014 4:21 PM
Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Talks to Resume on Winter Gas for Ukraine

Ukrainian and Russian officials will meet again next week in an effort to settle their dispute over natural gas supplies that threatens to leave Ukraine short of heating fuel for the coming winter. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London the dispute is complex, and has both economic and geopolitical dimensions.
Video

Video Smugglers Offer Cheap Passage From Turkey to Syria

Smugglers in Turkey offer a relatively cheap passage across the border into Syria. Ankara has stepped up efforts to stem the flow of foreign fighters who want to join Islamic State militants fighting for control of the Syrian border city of Kobani. But porous borders and border guards who can be bribed make illegal border crossings quite easy. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Comanche Chief Quanah Parker’s Century-Old House Falling Apart

One of the most fascinating people in U.S. history was Quanah Parker, the last chief of the American Indian tribe, the Comanche. He was the son of a Comanche warrior and a white woman who had been captured by the Indians. Parker was a fierce warrior until 1875 when he led his people to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and took on a new, peaceful life. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Cache, Oklahoma, Quanah’s image remains strong among his people, but part of his heritage is in danger of disappearing.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.

All About America

AppleAndroid