Longevity

Longevity Briefs: Does Being Bilingual Protect Your Brain?

Posted on 12 October 2020

Longevity briefs provides a short summary of a novel research, medicine, or technology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Why is this research important: Studies in the past have suggested that bilingualism can delay the onset of cognitive impairment and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. However, other studies fail to find any significant benefit. Could the benefits afforded by knowing multiple languages depend on the type and the degree of bilingualism?

What did the researchers do: Researchers studied mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease symptom onset in people with varying degrees of experience in both Spanish and Catalan. They also tested participants’ executive function, which includes metrics like self control and cognitive flexibility.

Key takeaway(s) from this research: Active bilingualism – that is, the continuous use of two languages – was a significant predictor for delaying the onset of mild cognitive impariment. This was independent of occupation and educational level. No significant effects were found for Alzheimers’s disease.
Bilingualism also appeared to improve executive control tasks involving conflict resolution – the ability to adjust behavior in order to resolve a problem.


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