Bilingualism could offset brain changes in Alzheimer’s

A Concordia study sheds light on how language history relates to brain plasticity

News Release
February 6, 2018 | QUEBEC – Bilingualism could offset brain changes in Alzheimer’s

After more than a decade of research, this much we know: it’s good for your brain to know another language.

A new Concordia study goes further, however, focusing specifically on the effects of knowing a second language for patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI; a risk state for AD).

“Most of the previous research on brain structure was conducted with healthy younger or older adults,” says Natalie Phillips, a professor in the Department of Psychology.

“Our new study contributes to the hypothesis that having two languages exercises specific brain regions and can increase cortical thickness and grey matter density. And it extends these findings by demonstrating that these structural differences can be seen in the brains of multilingual AD and MCI patients.”

Phillips’s study, led by recent Concordia psychology grad Hilary D. Duncan (PhD 17), is soon to be published in Neuropsychologia(Jan, 2018).

New methods: Enter the MRI

Phillips and her team are the first to use high-resolution, whole-brain MRI data and sophisticated analysis techniques to measure cortical thickness and tissue density within specific brain areas.

Namely, they investigated language and cognition control areas in the frontal regions of the brain, and medial temporal lobe structures that are important for memory and are brain areas known to atrophy in MCI and AD patients.

“Previous studies used CT scans, which are a much less sensitive measure,” says Phillips, founding director of Concordia’s Cognition, Aging and Psychophysiology (CAP) Lab.

The study looked at MRIs from participating patients from the Jewish General Hospital Memory Clinic in Montreal.

Their sample included 34 monolingual MCI patients, 34 multilingual MCI patients, 13 monolingual AD patients and 13 multilingual AD patients.

Phillips believes their study is the first to assess the structure of MCI and AD patients’ language and cognition control regions. It is also the first to demonstrate an association between those regions of the brain and memory function in these groups, and the first to control for immigration status in these groups.

“Our results contribute to research that indicates that speaking more than one language is one of a number of lifestyle factors that contributes to cognitive reserve,” Phillips says.

“They support the notion that multilingualism and its associated cognitive and sociocultural benefits are associated with brain plasticity.”

What’s next?

Phillips and her team are already building on their findings.

“Our study seems to suggest that multilingual people are able to compensate for AD-related tissue loss by accessing alternative networks or other brain regions for memory processing. We’re actively investigating that hypothesis now.”

Read the cited study, “Structural brain differences between monolingual and multilingual patients with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer disease: Evidence for cognitive reserve.

Source: NEW RESEARCH: Bilingualism could offset brain changes in Alzheimer’s

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Exercise may enhance plasticity of the adult brain

The Cell Press journal reported that a small study from the University of Pisa and the Neuroscience Institute, National Research Council (CNR) have found that exercise may improve the plasticity of the adult brain, which was thought to decline with age.

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Read more: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0960982215012889


 

Physical activity may leave the brain more open to change | EurekAlert! Science News

Learning, memory, and brain repair depend on the ability of our neurons to change with experience. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on December 7 have evidence from a small study in people that exercise may enhance this essential plasticity of the adult brain.The findings focused on the visual cortex come as hopeful news for people with conditions including amblyopia (sometimes called lazy eye), traumatic brain injury, and more, the researchers say.”We provide the first demonstration that moderate levels of physical activity enhance neuroplasticity in the visual cortex of adult humans,” says Claudia Lunghi of the University of Pisa in Italy.”By showing that moderate levels of physical activity can boost the plastic potential of the adult visual cortex, our results pave the way to the development of non-invasive therapeutic strategies exploiting the intrinsic brain plasticity in adult subjects,” she adds.The plastic potential of the cerebral cortex is greatest early in life, when the developing brain is molded by experience. …

###This research has received funding from the European Research Council.Current Biology, Lunghi and Sale: “A cycling lane for brain rewiring” http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2015.10.026Current Biology (@CurrentBiology), published by Cell Press, is a bimonthly journal that features papers across all areas of biology. Current Biology strives to foster communication across fields of biology, both by publishing important findings of general interest and through highly accessible front matter for non-specialists. For more information please visit http://www.cell.com/current-biology. To receive media alerts for Cell Press journals, contact press@cell.com.

Source: Physical activity may leave the brain more open to change | EurekAlert! Science News