Does bilingualism influence cognitive aging?

Authors

  • Thomas H. Bak MD,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    2. Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    • Address correspondence to Dr Bak, University of Edinburgh, Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology, 7 George Square, Edinburgh EH8 9JZ, United Kingdom. E-mail: thomas.bak@ed.ac.uk

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  • Jack J. Nissan PhD,

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    2. Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
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  • Michael M. Allerhand PhD,

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    2. Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
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  • Ian J. Deary MD

    1. Department of Psychology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
    2. Centre for Cognitive Aging and Cognitive Epidemiology, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
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Abstract

Recent evidence suggests a positive impact of bilingualism on cognition, including later onset of dementia. However, monolinguals and bilinguals might have different baseline cognitive ability. We present the first study examining the effect of bilingualism on later-life cognition controlling for childhood intelligence. We studied 853 participants, first tested in 1947 (age = 11 years), and retested in 2008–2010. Bilinguals performed significantly better than predicted from their baseline cognitive abilities, with strongest effects on general intelligence and reading. Our results suggest a positive effect of bilingualism on later-life cognition, including in those who acquired their second language in adulthood. Ann Neurol 2014;75:959–963

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