Research suggests lower dementia risk in bilingual people
New research has suggested that being bilingual may lead to better mental health.
In a recent report, published in the Trends in Cognitive Sciences journal, researchers examined how speaking two languages can prevent dementia. It was found that the brain’s need to monitor two languages in order to utilise the correct one requires parts of the brain crucial for general attention and cognitive control.
Scientists suspect that using these cognitive control centres for language processing helps to strengthen the system, potentially leading to enhanced “mental flexibility,” which is the ability to adapt to changes and process information efficiently. Research has also suggested that being bilingual improves “cognitive reserve” - the protective effect staying mentally active into old age has on brain function, which can delay the symptoms seen in people with dementia.
Dr. Ellen Bialystok from York University, the lead author of the study, said: “Our conclusion is that lifelong experience in managing attention to two languages reorganizes specific brain networks, creating a more effective basis for executive control and sustaining better cognitive performance throughout the lifespan. It should not be surprising that intense and sustained experience leaves its mark on our minds and brains, and it is now clear that the bilingual brain has been uniquely shaped by experience.”
The findings represent another great reason for expats to take the unique opportunity they have to master a new language. Of course, location remains an important factor – according to the HSBC Expat Explorer Survey, China emerged as the number one country when parents were asked whether their children were learning a new language.
Mexico, France and the Netherlands were in second, third and fourth place respectively. Predominantly English speaking countries, such as the USA , UK and Australia, were at the bottom of the table, taking eighth, ninth and tenth place.
Source – ExpatHealth.org July 12