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Actively Speaking Two Languages Protects Against Cognitive Impairment

People who actively communicate in two or more languages may have a lower risk of cognitive decline associated with aging

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Source: UOC

As well as allowing us to communicate with other people, languages are the tool we use to convey our thoughts, identity, knowledge, and the way we see and understand the world. Mastering more than one language enriches us, provides a gateway to other cultures and, according to a team of researchers led by scientists from the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) and Pompeu Fabra University (UPF), actively using them also brings us neurological benefits and protects us from cognitive impairment associated with aging.

In a paper published in Neuropsychologia, the researchers conclude that speaking two languages on a regular basis – and having done so all one’s life – enhances cognitive reserve and delays the appearance of symptoms associated with cognitive decline and dementia.

“The prevalence of dementia in countries where more than one language is spoken is 50% lower than in those regions where the population uses only one language to communicate,” said researcher Marco Calabria, professor at the UOC Faculty of Health Sciences and member of the University’s Cognitive NeuroLab research group and the Speech Production and Bilingualism research group, at the UPF.

Previous work had already found that the lifelong use of two or more languages could be a key factor in increasing cognitive reserve and delaying the onset of dementia, as well as offering advantages for memory and executive functions.

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