Posted in Caregiving, International Campaigns, International Policies, Therapeutic Activities

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

Posted in Ageing & Culture, Caregiving, International Campaigns, International Policies, Research & Best Practice, The Built Environment

Dementia Language Project

Read an awesome ad inspiring news piece about Lingo Flamingo, a social enterprise in Glasgow that provides individualised lessons and workshops that aid cognitive function with the aim of tackling dementia. The founder Robbie Norval founded Lingo Flamingo to help his grandmother who was living with dementia.

There’s been a sea of research recently reminding us that being bilingual or multilingual has it’s benefits, everyone from the Singapore Management University, Georgetown University Medical Centre, Northwestern University, the University of Houston and even the American Heart Association.

The research states that being bilingual or multilingual can

  • improve our ability to process information
  • gain more grey matter than monolinguals
  • better cognitive functions post-stroke than monolinguals
  • be a constant challenge to the brain


A dementia language project such as Lingo Flamingo is an inspiration. It not only aid cognitive function, it helps to support engagement and movement, it gets people into the community and builds an inclusive environment. Most of it, it’s people coming together to learn and to have fun learning.

Hopefully, more of these initiatives will be set up globally, certainly would love to see a programme such as this in Asia as well. Though a large number of Asian are bilingual, it’s always not a bad thing for your brain health to pick up another language.


Govan dementia language project launched – BBC News

Bilingualism and the Brain

Bilinguals of Two Spoken Languages Have More Gray Matter Than Monolinguals

Speaking multiple languages linked to better cognitive functions after stroke