Knowing 2nd Language May Ward Off Alzheimer's
Bilinguals cope with dementia better: study
By Nick McMaster,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 18, 2011 4:26 PM CST
MRI pictures show the brains of a healthy person and a patient with Alzheimer's disease.   (PRNewsFoto/CorTechs Labs, Inc.)

(Newser) – People who want protection against Alzheimer's might want to pick up a second language, LiveScience reports. York University researchers found that bilingual people who suffered from Alzheimer's had cognitive impairment comparable to sufferers who were 4 to 5 years younger—essentially, being bilingual seems to have bought them additional years of normal brain function.

Being bilingual doesn't prevent getting the disease, the researchers stress: It just makes the brain more able to cope with it. That may be because bilinguals use more of the executive control system of the prefrontal cortex. "It's the most important part of your mind," says the lead researcher. "It controls attention and everything we think of as uniquely human thought."