Healthy Brain Benefits of Being Bilingual

Recent studies show bilingual people enjoy brain health throughout their lives, and some experts believe bilingualism can help prevent Alzheimer’s disease.
Bilingual children regularly use “executive control” systems of the brain to switch between languages. Exercising this function often makes bilinguals better at planning, focusing and problem solving. But while bilingual people have more developed executive functioning, it doesn’t necessarily correlate to higher intelligence, according to a recent NBC Latino article.
In a 2004 study at York University in Toronto, bilingual children were faster than monolingual children at sorting objects into bins by and shape and color. Bilingual children were more focused on the task than other children who spoke only one language, the study found.
Experts say bilingualism lets people make decisions easier and think more creatively, helping protect against age-related brain diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s.
In a 2012 study by neuropsychologist Tamar Gollan, 44 elderly Spanish-English bilinguals resisted Alzheimer’s better than others. In a separate 2012 neurology study of 211 bilinguals and monolinguals, those who spoke multiple languages showed signs of Alzheimer’s five years later than monolingual people studied. Bilinguals have to produce speech rapidly and coherently while there are two languages in their heads.
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