Degree of bilingualism predicts age of diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease in low-education but not in highly educated Hispanics.

Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093-0948, United States.
Neuropsychologia (Impact Factor: 3.45). 12/2011; 49(14):3826-30. DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.09.041
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The current study investigated the relationship between bilingual language proficiency and onset of probable Alzheimer's disease (AD) in 44 Spanish-English bilinguals at the UCSD Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. Degree of bilingualism along a continuum was measured using Boston Naming Test (BNT) scores in each language. Higher degrees of bilingualism were associated with increasingly later age-of-diagnosis (and age of onset of symptoms), but this effect was driven by participants with low education level (a significant interaction between years of education and bilingualism) most of whom (73%) were also Spanish-dominant. Additionally, only objective measures (i.e., BNT scores), not self-reported degree of bilingualism, predicted age-of-diagnosis even though objective and self-reported measures were significantly correlated. These findings establish a specific connection between knowledge of two languages and delay of AD onset, and demonstrate that bilingual effects can be obscured by interactions between education and bilingualism, and by failure to obtain objective measures of bilingualism. More generally, these data support analogies between the effects of bilingualism and "cognitive reserve" and suggest an upper limit on the extent to which reserve can function to delay dementia.

Download full-text


Available from: Douglas Galasko, Jun 21, 2015
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Bilingual older adults typically have better performance on tasks of executive control (EC) than do their monolingual peers, but differences in brain activity due to language experience are not well understood. Based on studies showing a relation between the dynamic range of brain network activity and performance on EC tasks, we hypothesized that life-long bilingual older adults would show increased functional connectivity relative to monolinguals in networks related to EC. We assessed intrinsic functional connectivity and modulation of activity in task vs. fixation periods in two brain networks that are active when EC is engaged, the frontoparietal control network (FPC) and the salience network (SLN). We also examined the default mode network (DMN), which influences behavior through reduced activity during tasks. We found stronger intrinsic functional connectivity in the FPC and DMN in bilinguals than in monolinguals. Although there were no group differences in the modulation of activity across tasks and fixation, bilinguals showed stronger correlations than monolinguals between intrinsic connectivity in the FPC and task-related increases of activity in prefrontal and parietal regions. This bilingual difference in network connectivity suggests that language experience begun in childhood and continued throughout adulthood influences brain networks in ways that may provide benefits in later life.
    Neuropsychologia 11/2014; 66. DOI:10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2014.10.042 · 3.45 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Normal aging is an inevitable race between increasing knowledge and decreasing cognitive capacity. Crucial to understanding and promoting successful aging is determining which of these factors dominates for particular neurocognitive functions. Here, we focus on the human capacity for language, for which healthy older adults are simultaneously advantaged and disadvantaged. In recent years, a more hopeful view of cognitive aging has emerged from work suggesting that age-related declines in executive control functions are buffered by life-long bilingualism. In this paper, we selectively review what is currently known and unknown about bilingualism, executive control, and aging. Our ultimate goal is to advance the views that these issues should be reframed as a specific instance of neuroplasticity more generally and, in particular, that researchers should embrace the individual variability among bilinguals by adopting experimental and statistical approaches that respect the complexity of the questions addressed. In what follows, we set out the theoretical assumptions and empirical support of the bilingual advantages perspective, review what we know about language, cognitive control, and aging generally, and then highlight several of the relatively few studies that have investigated bilingual language processing in older adults, either on their own or in comparison with monolingual older adults. We conclude with several recommendations for how the field ought to proceed to achieve a more multifactorial view of bilingualism that emphasizes the notion of neuroplasticity over that of simple bilingual versus monolingual group comparisons.
    Applied Psycholinguistics 09/2014; 35(5):857-894. DOI:10.1017/S0142716414000174 · 1.39 Impact Factor
  • Source
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Over the next fifty years, the number of older adults is set to reach record levels. Protecting older adults from the age-related effects of cognitive decline is one of the greatest challenges of the next few decades as it places increasing pressure on families, health systems, and economies on a global scale. The disease-state of age-related cognitive decline-Alzheimer's disease and other dementias-hijacks our consciousness and intellectual autonomy. However, there is evidence that cognitively stimulating activities protect against the adverse effects of cognitive decline. Similarly, bilingualism is also considered to be a safeguard. We propose that foreign language learning programs aimed at older populations are an optimal solution for building cognitive reserve because language learning engages an extensive brain network that is known to overlap with the regions negatively affected by the aging process. It is recommended that future research should test this potentially fruitful hypothesis.
    Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews 09/2013; 37(10). DOI:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2013.09.004 · 10.28 Impact Factor