Study: Bilingualism shown to stave off the effects of aging on cognition

Studying more than one language might reduce the likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s later in life.

According to a recent study, the potential benefits of bilingualism on long-term cognitive function has generated interest across the academic community at Central Michigan University this past week.

Psychology professor Justin Oh-Lee said these results seem to be concurrent with his findings concerning Parkinson’s patients whose cognitive functioning is less compromised when they are actively engaged in cognitive tasks.

“I think this is a solid paper that will make an important contribution to our understanding of bilingual cognitive advantages,” Oh-Lee said. “I found the methodology solid, the results interesting and the conclusions valid.”

The study, conducted by University of Kentucky Neuroscientist Brian Gold and his colleagues, found that bilingual adults actually outperformed those who were monolingual when testing perceptual task switching.

“These results suggest that lifelong bilingualism offsets age-related declines in the neural efficiency for cognitive control processes,” the study goes on to say.

Courtney Hannula said she is bilingual and agrees with the study’s findings.

“I’ve seen how crazy it is that my brain can switch back and forth between Portuguese and English,” the Cadillac freshman said. “I definitely think it could help cognitive ability in the long run.”

The study also caught the attention of associate professor of Spanish language and Latin American literature Krzysztof Kulawik, who awaits future research regarding whether language immersion programs might still be effective in adulthood.

“It proved some of the theories I have heard about,” Kulawik said, equating language to music in its many benefits. “I am happy that more research is being done and hope that additional findings increase motivation for learning foreign languages.”

Still, some remain unconvinced.

“I found it interesting” Hartland freshman Ryan Egeland said. “But I am skeptical, because the study was on a small-scale.”

Egeland said he has limited experience with foreign language.

Roughly 20 percent of Americans are bilingual.

As NPR reported earlier this month, Gold is bilingual himself, speaking fluent French in addition to English.


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