Have you ever wished you spoke a second language? A new study may give you more motivation to expand your language skills. The largest study on the topic has concluded that speaking a second language may delay the onset of three different types of dementia. The study is the first to report that speaking two languages can delay the onset of dementia, regardless of education level.
The study was published on November 6 in Neurology and was done by researchers at Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, India. 648 seniors with varying forms of dementia and literacy were evaluated and led researchers to conclude that those participants who spoke a second language were able to delay Alzheimer’s Disease, vascular dementia, and frontotemporal dementia by 4.5 years.
After evaluating the participants, researchers found that those who spoke a second language delayed certain types of dementia by an average of 4.5 years. There was no additional benefit to those who spoke more than two languages and education, gender, and occupation had no effect on the delay.
Although why this phenomenon occurs is not yet known, speaking two languages requires a specific type of brain training and switching between two languages requires a specific type of attention. That part of the brain, if exercised, may be what delays certain types of dementia.
“Speaking more than one language is thought to lead to better development of the areas of the brain that handle executive functions and attention tasks, which may help protect from the onset of dementia.” said study author Suvarna Alladi, DM, with Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences in Hyderabad, India.
More studies in different places throughout the world need to be completed to see if the same effect is found. The study needs to be replicated in different populations and cultures to ensure there is not another factor in the delay of dementia.
Other studies may be able to show how learning a second language protects against dementia and if that effect can be replicated by other brain activity, such as learning an instrument or doing a puzzle.
Does this information make you want to learn a second language? Let us know in the comments.
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