Speaking More than One Language may Delay Onset of Dementia

Elderly FriendsA recent study of 648 older adults in India suggests that those who were bilingual developed dementia more than four years later, on average, than those who spoke only one language—regardless of educational level.

Published recently in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN), the study found that speaking two languages seems to have a protective effect against three types of dementia: Alzheimer’s disease, frontotemporal dementia, and vascular dementia.

“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,” said study author Suvarna Alladi, DM, with Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, India, in a press release from the AAN.

The study subjects, all of whom were diagnosed with dementia, had an average age of 66. Approximately half spoke two or more languages; 14 percent were illiterate.

“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.

To learn more or to read the full article online, visit the Neurology Web site.

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