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Bilingualism delays onset of Alzheimer's symptoms
Date:11/8/2010

n 211 patients diagnosed with probable Alzheimer's from the Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic at Baycrest, from 2007 to 2009. The patients' date of diagnosis and age of onset of cognitive impairment were recorded along with information on occupational history, education and language history (i.e. fluency in English and any other languages). Following this procedure, 102 patients were classified as bilingual and 109 as monolingual.

The researchers found that bilingual patients had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's 4.3 years later and had reported the onset of symptoms five years later than the monolingual patients. The groups were equivalent on measures of cognitive and occupational level, there was no apparent effect of immigration status, and there were no gender differences.

The Neurology paper replicates findings from the team's widely-reported 2007 study led by Dr. Bialystok and published in Neuropsychologia. That study examined the clinical records of 184 patients diagnosed with probable Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia and found that bilingual patients delayed the onset of their symptoms by four years compared to monolingual patients.

The current study adds to mounting scientific evidence that lifestyle factors such as regular cardiovascular exercise, a healthy diet, and speaking more than one language can play a central role in how the brain copes with age-related cognitive decline and diseases such as Alzheimer's.

"Although a great deal of research is being focused on the development of new and more effective medications for Alzheimer's disease, there are currently no drug treatments that show any effects on delaying Alzheimer's symptoms, let alone delaying the onset of these symptoms by up to five years," said Dr. Freedman, head of Neurology and director of the Sam and Ida Ross Memory Clinic at Baycrest.


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Contact: Kelly Connelly
kconnelly@baycrest.org
416-785-2432
Baycrest Centre for Geriatric Care
Source:Eurekalert

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