Over five million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease and more women than men have some form of dementia. In the U.S., Alzheimer’s is the seventh-leading cause of death across all ages and is the fifth-leading cause of death for those aged 65 and older. There is no cure for Alzheimer’s.
The journal Neurology published evidence that learning a second language has big benefits for your brain.
The recent brain research revealed how bilingual people's brains function better and for longer after developing the disease. Researchers discovered that bilingual people seem to maintain better thinking functions as they aged compared to people who speak only one language.
Also, an additional benefit scientists discovered is bilinguals are better at multitasking than those who only speak their native tongue.
The researchers stated that learning a second language may help keep the mind active. It also builds up what called "cognitive reserve" to resist the onset of growing older.
Researchers at York University in Toronto and lead research psychologist Ellen Bialystok tested about 450 patients who had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Out of the 450 patients, half of these patients were bilingual and the other half spoke only one language.
Researchers discovered those who were bilingual had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's about four years later than those who spoke only one language. Also, those who spoke only one language reported their symptoms had begun about five years earlier than the bilingual patients.
According to CT brain scans of the Alzheimer's patients, those who are bilingual have more advanced brain deterioration than those who spoke just one language. However, the bilingual patients acted more like the monolingual patients whose disease was less advanced.
Bialystok stated, "Bilingualism is protecting older adults, even after Alzheimer's disease is beginning to affect cognitive function. Once the disease begins to compromise this region of the brain, bilinguals can continue to function."
The researchers had bilingual people exercise a brain network called the executive control system.