The Bilingual Advantage

Written by Nicole Scheidl

May 31, 2011

Cognitive neuroscientist, Ellen Bialystok spoke to the New York Times about her 40 years of research into the benefits of bilingualism and its role in delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. Her conclusion is essentially that through using two languages regularly, the brain is exercising and strengthening its executive control system. This strengthening of the brain builds up the ability of the brain to function more efficiently.

One study completed by her research team looked at the functioning of older adults who were bilingual compared to the functioning of those who were monolingual. They study found that bilingualism gave the individual greater capacity to offset age-related losses in working memory and certain executive functions.

A second study found that bilingual patients diagnosed with dementia showed symptoms four years later than monolinguals, all other measures being equivalent.

It appears from the neuroimaging technology used to watch the brain during problem solving, those with bilingual capacity have different connections in their brain. So learning and using a second language regularly is a big plus when it comes to developing your cognitive strength and can help delay the symptoms of the disease. A great incentive to start learning and using a second language.

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