MONDAY, 2 MAY 2022In 2007, renowned psychologist Ellen Bialystok and colleagues observed in a Toronto clinic that lifelong bilinguals tend to develop dementia 4 to 5 years later than their monolingual counterparts. This later ignited a lasting discussion on whether there exists a bilingual advantage - a debate which, after reaching a bottleneck among applied linguists, is now attracting neuroscientific perspectives. In a recent opinion paper in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, three core issues at the intersection of bilingualism and dementia were raised. Firstly, there seems to be little explanation on why bilingualism defers different subtypes of dementia by different lengths of time. How bilingualism shapes the brain in a way that interacts with the pathologies of dementia subtypes is under-researched, and there is also the question of whether certain types of bilingual activity may strengthen parts of the brain that are more sensitive to dementia-related atrophy. These issues imply that, in order for scientists to truly understand the role of lifelong bilingualism in dementia development, there is a need to uncover the mechanisms of dementia-related memory loss in greater depth.
Yan-Yi Lee is the BlueSci News Editor. Image sourced from Pixabay.