Speaking more than one language can be more useful than ordering espresso on your European vacation; Scientists say bilingualism may delay the onset of different types of dementia. In fact, languages hold more value than the level of education in warding off dementias, the researchers said.
The recent study published in Neurology involved 648 individuals from India diagnosed with one of three types of dementia. Of those, 391 participants spoke two or more languages. Researchers found that dementia began at an average age of 65.6 in those who were bilingual, compared to the average age of 61.1 in those who were monolingual a four-and-a-half year delay.
Speak more than two languages? Even better. Multilingual individuals also had delayed onset of two other types of dementia, including Alzheimer s disease, according to Suvarna Alladi, DM, of Nizam s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderbad, and colleagues.
In the study, the largest of its kind, Alladi and colleagues argued that merely having the knowledge of more than one language while controlling for wealth and literacy offers protection against the cognitive diseases.
"Our study is the first to report an advantage of speaking two languages in people who are unable to read, suggesting that a person's level of education is not a sufficient explanation for this difference in dementia prevalence seen in other studies, Alladi said.
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. This switching, researchers say, calls on the brain s executive and attentional control functions.
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