For my first blog, I chose to ponder two subjects that are very near and dear to my heart: dementia and being bilingual. I am very lucky in the fact that there are current studies that link the two subjects together, creating research that I thoroughly enjoy learning more about. I have been studying Spanish for 9 years now and consider myself quite proficient in the language. The idea that by just learning and speaking Spanish could help to slow the onset of dementia, a disease that has affected many members in my own family, is absolutely riveting.
The article that I read starts out by discussing some of the current findings on dementia and Alzheimer's Disease. Dementia is a neurological disorder that the cause has not yet been completely cracked, nor has a treatment for the disease been discovered. There have been some treatments (mostly medications) that have been found to slow the progression of the dementia, but there is still no cure to reverse the damage that is done.
There are some non-medicinal activities that have been found to slow the progression also. Some of these activities include setting puzzles, reading, and learning new information. The researchers in this article believe that being bilingual is also an activity or lifestyle that slows the onset of dementia.
In the study, the researchers studied 184 people with dementia. 51% of the individuals had been bilingual for the majority of their life. Doctors recorded the onset and progression of the individuals and found that the bilingual people had an onset of dementia four years later than the monolingual people.
This is an absolutely amazing discovery. Four years may not seem like that long of a time, but an extra four years with a loved one is, in my eyes, worth it. So, this makes me wonder... what is it about knowing more than one language that delays the onset of dementia? Is the delay simply because more of the brain is being used when and individual knows two languages, or is there something in the language portion of the brain that correlates to memory loss? What if an individual learns three languages? Will that delay the onset even further? It also makes me wonder if foreign language should be included in the elementary school curriculum in order to start stretching the brains of young people even more. There seems to be so many what ifs when it comes to the prevention of this devastating disease, and only way to discover the cause and preventing seems to be increased research on the brain and its function. Adios!