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Ageing Res Rev. 2016 May;27:56-60. doi: 10.1016/j.arr.2016.03.003. Epub 2016 Mar 16.

Aging in two languages: Implications for public health.

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Department of Psychology, York University, Canada. Electronic address:
Department of Clinical Neurosciences, San Raffaele University and Scientific Institute San Raffaele, Milan, Italy; Division of Speech and Hearing Sciences, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong. Electronic address:
School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences Centre for Cognitive Ageing and Cognitive Epidemiology Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom. Electronic address:
Department of Linguistics and Cognitive Science Pomona College, USA. Electronic address:
Department of Psychology Center for Language Science Pennsylvania State University, USA. Electronic address:


With the population aging and a dramatic increase in the number of senior citizens, public health systems will be increasingly burdened with the need to deal with the care and treatment of individuals with dementia. We review evidence demonstrating how a particular experience, bilingualism, has been shown to protect cognitive function in older age and delay onset of symptoms of dementia. This paper describes behavioral and brain studies that have compared monolingual and bilingual older adults on measures of cognitive function or brain structure and reviews evidence demonstrating a protective effect of bilingualism against symptoms of dementia. We conclude by presenting some data showing the potential savings in both human costs in terms of demented patients and economic considerations in terms of public money if symptoms of dementia could be postponed.


Alzheimer’s disease; Bilingualism; Cognitive aging; Cognitive reserve; Dementia; Neuroplasticity

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