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Speaking Several Languages Might Protect Memory
Date:2/22/2011

By Charnicia Huggins
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 22 (HealthDay News) -- The ability to speak several languages not only looks good on a resume when you're young, it may have neurological benefits well after you pass retirement age.

A new study finds that seniors who speak three, four or more languages may have a lower risk of impaired memory than their peers.

Most people already know the cultural advantages of learning foreign languages, but now it appears there are also health benefits to being able to speak in more than one tongue, said lead researcher Magali Perquin, of the Center for Health Studies from the Public Research Center for Health in Luxembourg.

"People who practice different languages might develop particular cognitive processes that may help them to be more resistant to brain aging and cognitive decline when getting old," Perquin added. "It might even provide additional motivation to learn new languages, which is quite interesting."

Perquin and colleagues studied hundreds of males and females who were randomly invited to participate in the MemoVie study, a long-term study of mental function in the elderly. The seniors, who were 73 years old on average and had completed about 12 years of formal education, underwent neurological and psychological examinations and were categorized as having normal mental function, impaired mental function or dementia. After excluding those with dementia, the researchers looked at the number of languages the seniors spoke currently or at some point in life to determine if any associations existed between multilingualism and cognitive impairment.

The investigators found that the more languages the seniors currently spoke, or had spoken previously, the better protected they were against experiencing memory loss.

The findings, released online Tuesday, are scheduled to be presented in April during the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting
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