An ability to master more than one languages may help reduce the risk of developing dementia
according to recent study. Researchers from the University of Waterloo conducted a study, published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, to explore the association between multilingualism and dementia risk.
The novel research, led by Dr Suzanne Tyas, a public health
professor at Waterloo, examined the brain health
of 325 Roman Catholic nuns who were members of the Sisters of Notre Dame in the United States. The data was drawn from a larger, internationally recognized study examining the Sisters, known as the Nun Study
After reviewing the material, they found only 5.7% of the nuns who spoke four or more languages developed dementia, compared to 32% of those who spoke only one language.
Co-author Dr Suzanne Tyas commented in a phone interview with Thailand Medical News
, "Language is a complex ability of the human brain, and switching between different languages takes cognitive flexibility. So it makes sense that the extra mental exercise multilinguals would get from speaking four or more languages might help their brains be in better shape than monolinguals."
The research team also evaluated the nuns' writing and discovered those who could best express their ideas on paper also had a lower dementia risk. The researchers examined 106 samples of the nuns' written work and compared it to the broader findings. They found that written linguistic ability affected whether the individuals were at greater risk of developing dementia. For example, idea density or the number of ideas expressed succinctly in written work,helped reduce the risk even more than multilingualism.
The researchers claim that the Nun Study is unique: It is a natural experiment, with very different lives in childhood and adolescence before entering the convent, contrasted with very similar adult lives in the convent. This gives us the ability to look at early-life factors on health
later in life without worrying about all the other factors, such as socioeconomic status and genetics, which usually vary from person to person during adulthood and can weaken other studies.
Dr Tyas added "This study shows that while multilingualism may be important, we shoul
d also be looking further into other examples of linguistic ability. In addition, we need to know more about multilingualism and what aspects are important, such as the age when a language is first learned, how often each language is spoken, and how similar or different these languages are."
The team hopes that their findings would influence more individuals to indulge in mentally and intellectually activities such as language learning, reading more and writing more to help reduce dementia risk. The process has to be started when a person is in their middle age and not when their older as dementia starts developing in the brain when a person a person is younger but the symptoms only manifest when they are old.
Erica E. Hack et al. Multilingualism and Dementia Risk: Longitudinal Analysis of the Nun Study, Journal of Alzheimer's Disease (2019). DOI: 10.3233/JAD-181302
Note from Thailand Medical News. TMN wonders if the advent of stupid content platforms like Facebook, Line and Twitter is the reason for any increase of dementia diseases over the last decade. With newer platforms like Youtube and Tik-tok being embraced by the millennials as part of their ‘intellectually” daily regimens, maybe a Dementia Pandemic is inevitable after all in the next few decades.