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Learning Swedish delays dementia: study

30 Mar 2012, 16:01

Published: 30 Mar 2012 16:01 GMT+02:00

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New research by scientists in North America shows that years of speaking two or more languages can have a physical effect on the brain, as years of stashing extra vocabulary increases memory.

As the brain ages, the capacity developed to think in another language means it can call on its increased memory-bank to stem the onset of mentally degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

While it may seem daunting, learning Swedish could hold back dementia symptoms for three to four years in an average case, American and Canadian scientists said in the March edition of the “Trends in Cognitive Sciences” journal.

"Our conclusion is that lifelong experience in managing attention to two languages reorganizes specific brain networks, creating a more effective basis for executive control and sustaining better cognitive performance throughout our lifespan." said Ellen Bialystok, lead author of the study, in a statement.

She added that jumping back and forth between languages played a large part in heightening mental flexibility.

The study compared brain scans, and symptoms of Alzheimer’s patients. People with a second language often had fewer dementia symptoms, even if they had worse brain damage than those with just their mother tongue.

“This supports the idea that these people can handle the disease better and live longer without symptoms,” said Bialystok, based at York University, Canada.

Researchers said that the earlier someone cracks open a textbook, the more chance they have of developing mental armour against Alzheimer’s.

Story continues below…

The Local


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Your comments about this article

17:34 March 30, 2012 by Spuds MacKenzie
Too bad the SFI courses don't make it easier to learn Swedish. :(
17:41 March 30, 2012 by astra2thor6
Neither does SAS!
20:12 March 30, 2012 by dizzy09
learning svenska and not getting a job afterwards also hastens dementia.
01:01 March 31, 2012 by JulieLou40
I would have thought learning Swedish fries the brain quicker, if anything!!
01:25 March 31, 2012 by BackpackerKev
"as years of stashing extra vocabulary increases memory."

aka Read the dictionary.

Really? why overcomplicate things with second language bs.
16:23 March 31, 2012 by Mb 65
I think it was the start of mine.
18:05 March 31, 2012 by Puffin
Come on SFI is not so bad if you work at it - it's only primary school Swedish! (grades 1-6)
19:23 March 31, 2012 by Rumrunner94
The original study says absolutely nothing about swedish. It only refers to learning being multilingual. Nice twist there Local. Liar again..
03:27 April 1, 2012 by swedejane
Does this really apply to a primitive language like Swedish?
05:32 April 1, 2012 by minzi
To learn language is fun and it is good to train the brain too as so many other things too. And I am studying Swedish now, it is fun like to learning English too.
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