Bilingualism

health

Bilingualism Benefits The Brain, Helps Delay Onset Of Alzheimer’s Disease

KEY POINTS

  • Bilingualism prompts the brain to work harder
  • It helps in keeping the brain healthy
  • Learning a new language is possible even in adulthood

The Alzheimer’s Association revealed that more than five million Americans are currently living with the disease and the number is projected to reach 14 million by 2050. The numbers may be grim, but recent research showed that there is one way to delay its onset, and that is through bilingualism. Learning a new language at any age can greatly help keep the brain healthier.

Dr. Ellen Bialystok, a Canadian psychologist and professor who has the rank of Distinguished Research Professor at York University, Toronto, has made one of the most compelling researches on the relationship between bilingualism and the brain. Bialystok, in a research published in Neurology, titled, “Delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease, Bilingualism as a form of cognitive reserve,” revealed that bilinguals often receive a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s about four to five years later than monolinguals. 

“The more you use another language, the better you get at it. Well, that’s not surprising, but along with that, the more you use two languages, the more your brain subtly rewires,” Bialystok told CNN 

Bialystok noted that in terms of the benefits that the brain gets when it comes to bilingualism, levels of education do not matter at all. She highlighted that one of the most profound results of bilingualism was observed among illiterates or those who did not have any formal education. Speaking two languages was the only real way that their brains receive stimulation, such that the exercise provides protection to their brains as they grow older.

Bilingualism good for the brain Bilingualism benefits the brain. Photo: jamesoladujoye/Pixabay

Bialystok stated that the number of years that one speaks two languages would mean a longer period that the brain keeps on reorganizing. The earlier that people start becoming bilingual, the better.

Tamar Gollan, professor at the University of California, San Diego, said that people could not just turn off a language. Bilinguals are faced with everyday choices that monolinguals do not face. To this effect, the brain works harder to speak two languages.

Learning a new language even as an adult can greatly benefit brain health. Just like exercise, wherein the more that one exercise, the greater that one expands his capacity for oxygen. By exercising the brain more through bilingualism, the brain maintains its flexibility. Add in physical activities, eating healthy and sufficient amounts of sleep, and one may be able to keep the brain healthier.

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medicine

Bilingualism is good medicine for the brain

Shortly after Kathy Jones relocated to California, the retired professor decided she needed to learn to speak Spanish.



Staying Well Bilingual Brain for Wellness_00000020.jpg


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Staying Well Bilingual Brain for Wellness_00000020.jpg

“When I moved to San Diego, I would see all these young kids, mostly Latino kids, who could speak perfect Spanish and perfect English. And switch, back and forth, with fluidity. And I saw that and I don’t know why, but I said to myself, I want to be able to do that,” she says.

Jones looked forward to her weekly Spanish class, but what she really loved was the extracurricular activities organized by her teachers at the Culture and Language Center in San Diego.

“Before the pandemic, we had meet-ups for coffee, parties, craft workshops and excursions all over Latin America — all totally in Spanish. We haven’t been able to do any of that since March.”

Jones is still keeping up with her classes, but they’re all online now. Her classmate is a friend who lives in Vancouver, British Columbia, and their teacher is based in Tijuana. Her online sessions are providing some much-needed social interaction while Jones and her husband hunker down in their San Diego home.

The benefits

Since Jones has been such a dedicated pupil, she’s almost reached fluency. And that could be good for her brain.

Some of the most compelling research on bilingualism and aging comes from Ellen Bialystok of York University in Toronto.

She found that bilinguals are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease four to five years later than their monolingual counterparts.

“The more you use another language, the better you get at it. Well, that’s not surprising, but along with that, the more you use two languages, the more your brain subtly rewires,” she says.

And when it comes to the beneficial effects bilingualism has on the brain, education levels do not matter. In fact, the most profound effects were found in people who were illiterate and had no education. Bilingualism was their only real source of mental stimulation, and as they got older, it provided protection for their aging brains.

Tamar Gollan of the University of California San Diego Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center explains it this way: “Bilingualism doesn’t prevent you from getting Alzheimer’s disease; it doesn’t prevent brain damage from happening if you have the disease. What it does is it makes you continue to function, even in the face of having damage to the brain. You can imagine an athlete with an injury crossing the finish line, even though they’re injured.”

So why does being bilingual have any effect at all?

“The effect it has is, I believe, is on the attention system,” Bialystok says. “This is what cognition is, knowing what you need to attend to, and blocking out the rest.”

Brain changes

Bialystok believes the experience of using two languages effectively reorganizes your brain.

“So that means the more experience with bilingualism leads to greater changes. The longer you’re bilingual, the more the changes. The earlier you start

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“The effect it has is, I believe, is on the attention system,” Bialystok says. “This is what cognition is, knowing what you need to attend to, and blocking out the rest.”

Brain changes

Bialystok believes the experience of using two languages effectively reorganizes your brain.

“So that means the more experience with bilingualism leads to greater changes. The longer you’re bilingual, the more the changes. The earlier you start being bilingual, the more the changes. The more intense your bilingual experience is on a daily basis, the more the changes.”

“When you’re bilingual,” Gollan explains, “you can’t turn one language off, so you’re constantly having to face choices that monolingual speakers don’t have to make. So in addition, you have to ‘work hard’ to be bilingual.”

People who are highly educated, or people who have very demanding jobs, might have similar benefits with later onset of Alzheimer’s disease. They still get the disease, but all that hard work their brains did over the years makes it more resilient, for longer.

Use it or Lose it

Research is ongoing when it comes to bilingualism and the brain, and more benefits could still be found.

But in the meantime, what’s an older person to do? Is it too late to reap the benefits of learning a second language?

Source Article

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medicine

Bilingualism is good medicine for the brain | Live Well

“The effect it has is, I believe, is on the attention system,” Bialystok says. “This is what cognition is, knowing what you need to attend to, and blocking out the rest.”

Brain changes

Bialystok believes the experience of using two languages effectively reorganizes your brain.

“So that means the more experience with bilingualism leads to greater changes. The longer you’re bilingual, the more the changes. The earlier you start being bilingual, the more the changes. The more intense your bilingual experience is on a daily basis, the more the changes.”

“When you’re bilingual,” Gollan explains, “you can’t turn one language off, so you’re constantly having to face choices that monolingual speakers don’t have to make. So in addition, you have to ‘work hard’ to be bilingual.”

People who are highly educated, or people who have very demanding jobs, might have similar benefits with later onset of Alzheimer’s disease. They still get the disease, but all that hard work their brains did over the years makes it more resilient, for longer.

Use it or Lose it

Research is ongoing when it comes to bilingualism and the brain, and more benefits could still be found.

But in the meantime, what’s an older person to do? Is it too late to reap the benefits of learning a second language?

Source Article

Read More
medicine

Bilingualism is good medicine for the brain | Health

“The effect it has is, I believe, is on the attention system,” Bialystok says. “This is what cognition is, knowing what you need to attend to, and blocking out the rest.”

Brain changes

Bialystok believes the experience of using two languages effectively reorganizes your brain.

“So that means the more experience with bilingualism leads to greater changes. The longer you’re bilingual, the more the changes. The earlier you start being bilingual, the more the changes. The more intense your bilingual experience is on a daily basis, the more the changes.”

“When you’re bilingual,” Gollan explains, “you can’t turn one language off, so you’re constantly having to face choices that monolingual speakers don’t have to make. So in addition, you have to ‘work hard’ to be bilingual.”

People who are highly educated, or people who have very demanding jobs, might have similar benefits with later onset of Alzheimer’s disease. They still get the disease, but all that hard work their brains did over the years makes it more resilient, for longer.

Use it or Lose it

Research is ongoing when it comes to bilingualism and the brain, and more benefits could still be found.

But in the meantime, what’s an older person to do? Is it too late to reap the benefits of learning a second language?

Source Article

Read More