22 September 2020

Speak two languages

Scientists have confirmed that bilinguals are twice as likely to suffer from dementia

Svetlana Maslova, Hi-tech+

Scientists observed residents of Barcelona who speak Spanish and Catalan. It turned out that the active use of two languages dramatically reduces the likelihood of incurable neurodegeneration. This time, for the first time, scientists took into account the advantages of regular everyday communication.

The peculiarity of the bilingualism of Barcelona residents gave scientists the opportunity to assess not just the impact of fluency in a second language on brain function, but the active use of a second language in everyday life from the point of view of preventing neurodegeneration.

Their study involved 63 healthy volunteers, 135 patients with mild cognitive impairment and 68 with an established diagnosis and progressive Alzheimer's disease. Scientists assessed their level of language proficiency and the activity of its use. The results are published in the journal Neuropsychologia (Calabria et al., Active bilingualism delays the onset of mild cognitive impairment), a press release is available on the website of the Open University of Catalonia.

It turned out that more active "users" of two languages received their diagnosis later than those who passively mastered this skill.

"At the same time, the prevalence of dementia in countries where the population speaks more than one language is 50% lower than in those regions where people use only one language to communicate," commented study co–author Marco Calabria.

It is known that the possession of two languages and regular switching from one to the other is an important and permanent tool for brain training. For example, such linguistic gymnastics is very important for other cognitive functions that are necessary when performing several tasks simultaneously. This allows a person to filter out important information, scientists explain.

"The more you use both languages and have a better command of them, the more neuroprotective advantages you have," the researchers stressed.

For the brain, this skill creates additional reserves and when something is disrupted, alternative options to compensate for the developing pathology still exist, they added.

Now scientists intend to find out the benefits of bilingualism for other diseases that disrupt brain function, including Parkinson's and Huntington's disease.

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