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

At Khmer Rouge Court, Long-Awaited Verdict Approaches

First phase of trial, which is coming to an end, has focused on forced exodus of Phnom Penh in 1975 - and now many are hopeful justice will be served More

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities More

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

Downing of Malaysian airliner, allegations of cross-border shelling move information war in war-torn country to a new level More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukrainei
X
Al Pessin
July 31, 2014 8:13 PM
The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Gazans in Shelled School Sought Shelter

Israel's air and ground assault against Hamas-led fighters in Gaza has forced many Palestinians to flee their homes, seeking safety. But safe places are hard to find, as VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jabaliya.
Video

Video Rapid Spread of Ebola in West Africa Prompts Global Alert

Across West Africa, health officials are struggling to keep up with what the World Health Organization describes as the worst ebola outbreak on record. The virus has killed hundreds of people this year. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders are watching the developments closely as they weigh what actions, if any, are needed to help contain the disease.
Video

Video Michelle Obama: Young Africans Need to Embrace Women's Rights

U.S. first lady Michelle Obama urged some of Africa's best and brightest to advocate for women's rights in their home countries. As VOA's Pam Dockins explains, Obama spoke to some 500 participants of the Young African Leaders Initiative, a six-week U.S.-based training and development program.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.
Video

Video Study: Latino Students Most Segregated in California

Even though legal school segregation ended in the United States 60 years ago, one study finds segregation still occurs in the U.S. based on income and race. The University of California Los Angeles Civil Rights Project finds that students in California are more segregated by race than ever before, especially Latinos. Elizabeth Lee reports for VOA from Los Angeles.

AppleAndroid