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01-15-2013, 03:17 PM
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Originally Posted by Fugu View Post
From the cited article, and then another linked one therein:
Neuroscientists think that having more reserve brain power helps compensate for age-related declines in thinking and memory, and may help protect against the losses caused by Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia.
It reviews the state of research on bilingual adults, and finds they maintain better executive functioning later in life than monolingual people. That extra "cognitive reserve" may allow the brain to better cope with the damage caused by dementia, thereby delaying symptoms. (Being physically and mentally active has also been shown to have cognitive benefits.) The article, also co-authored by Bialystock, is in the current issue of Trends in Cognitive Sciences.

The title could have been more accurate by saying cognitive reserve may help delay the onset of dementia, including Alzheimer's?
Yeah, I don't like the title at all; it's not really accurate. Alzheimer's has a distinct molecular pathology which multilingualism does not address. If you have a predisposing PSEN mutation, learning 1000 languages won't prevent you from accumulating amyloid B fragments, which will eventually kill your neurons. Having a higher cognitive reserve allows you to be a "higher-functioning" Alzheimer's victim, at least for a while, but it won't stop your neurons from dying and the eventual onset of dementia.

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