Bilingualism delays Alzheimer's
Study: Bilingual people are less susceptible to Alzheimer's
Those who speak a second language can significantly delay the onset and course of Alzheimer's disease. According to the results of a research group led by Ellen Bialystok of York University in Toronto, first Alzheimer's symptoms appear in bilinguals four to five years later.
Speaking a second language trains the brain and delays the memory loss typical of Alzheimer's, Ellen Bialystok reported in Washington at the American Association for the Advancement of Science Science Conference. According to the expert, the later learning of a foreign language can also have a delaying effect on Alzheimer's disease. Ellen Bialystok explained that neuronal linkages in memory are significantly more complex in bilinguals, apparently preventing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Outbreak of Alzheimer's disease delayed by second language
Researchers at York University in Toronto have found that regular speaking a second language can improve overall memory performance and delay the onset of Alzheimer's disease by four to five years (versus monolinguals). Psychologist Ellen Bialystok emphasized that she and her colleagues „At first, they could not believe that the effect was so strong, and (...) after the first examination with 184 subjects (therefore) carried out a second“ where the results have been confirmed. Speaking a second language does not prevent Alzheimer's disease, but delays it significantly, the expert explained. In Alzheimer's patients who regularly speak a second language, the disease symptoms also develop much slower, so Bialystok on. However, the clear results apply only to people who grow up bilingually. In people who learn later a foreign language, although also an Alzheimer retarding effect was observed, but less pronounced, explained the expert.
Bilingual people have better neural connections
According to the psychologist, the positive effect of bilingualism on the brain can be explained by the fact that bilingual humans have two connections in the brain for each object - one term per language. Unlike people who have learned a foreign language at school, bilinguals are always growing up „Both languages are active at the same time. "Bialystok, who speaks a foreign language only occasionally, also knows several terms for an object, but these are only present if they are deliberately recalled.The neural connections in the prefrontal cortex are simply better for bilinguals pronounced, Bialystok explained.
Bilingualism promotes networking in the brain
Overall, not only the two hemispheres of the bilingual are often simultaneously active, but the networking in the brain is also much better, reported the expert and announced that the results soon in the Journal „Neurology“ to publish. For monolinguals who, in addition to their native language, learn another language later in life, the effects of Alzheimer's delay are much less pronounced, yet „every bit helps a bit“, explained the expert. Thus, learning a foreign language even at the age of 40 or 60 years could still have a positive effect on the brain. „It's like oil for the brain motor“, Bialystok emphasized, even though those affected may no longer be bilingual in their lives.
Dementia and Alzheimer's on the rise worldwide
For children who grow up bilingually, bilingualism has positive effects not only in old age, but according to Ellen Bialystok, the brain already benefits as a child. For example, bilingual children can better prioritize, make it easier to classify tasks according to importance, and they are better at multitasking, the psychologist said. In particular, the effects are not surprising in multitasking, since here, in particular, the prefrontal cortex is required, which is particularly well networked in the bilingual. However, according to Ellen Bialystok, it is still unclear why children are much more likely to learn new languages than adults. Researchers at the University of Toronto want to address this topic in further studies.
The impact of Toronto's landmark breakthrough results on Alzheimer's disease treatment and prevention has not yet been foretold, but with the growing number of those affected, the experts expect them to be put into practice as soon as possible. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), around 24 million people worldwide already suffer from dementia today. In Germany, according to the health authorities, about 1.2 million people are affected by dementia, with two-thirds of them suffering from Alzheimer's. Experts predict that in the coming years, demographic trends will significantly increase numbers and that dementia and Alzheimer's disease will more than double by 2050. (Fp)
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Picture: Gerd Altmann