A new study conducted by researchers in India has found that individuals who are fluent in more than one language had better protection against cognitive injury as a result of stroke.
After having a stroke, bilingual patients were about twice as likely to have normal brainfunction – 40 percent of bilingual strokepatients had normal brain function, compared to roughly 20 percent of monolingual stroke patients.
Every year, millions of people worldwide suffer from stroke, poor blood flow to the brain resulting in cell death. They also took into account the lifestyle of the participants, including smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes and age. The main risk factor for stroke is hypertension.
Four in 10 bilingual patients made a full recovery following a stroke, compared with just two in 10 among those who spoke only one language, researchers from the University of Edinburgh found.
The study appeared in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.
The authors suggest the protective effect of being bilingual was not because of linguistic skills, but was probably related to “executive functions acquired through a lifelong practice of language switching”.
Both study groups, however, displayed virtually similar rates of aphasia, with monolinguals showing an 11.8 percent frequency for the developing the language disorder and bilinguals showing a 10.5 percent frequency for the condition.
The study, which was published in the journal Stroke, used data from 608 stroke patients in Hyderabad who were assessed, on attention skills and the ability to retrieve and organise information. Bak and Alladi’s earlier research showed that bilingualism may postpone the onset of dementia and improve concentration.
The team previously discovered that people who speak more than one language develop dementia several years than monolinguists.
The findings of the Nizam’s study run contradictory to those suggested in an earlier research carried out by British researchers. Alladi said that bilingualism in Hyderabad may not mirror bilingualism in the United States – fluency in more than one language is common in India, whereas in the United States, it tends to be seen more among recent immigrants and better-educated Americans. “Constantly switching languages is a daily reality for many residents of Hyderabad”, said Suvarna Alladi, lead author of the study, “The cognitive benefit may not be seen in places where the need to function in two or more languages isn’t as extensive”.
However, there was no difference in difficulty with speaking, reading and writing after a stroke.
Interestingly, the researchers found that bilingualism was not associated with better language abilities after a stroke.
It suggests that other activities which boost brain power, such as taking part in night classes, playing chess, doing crosswords, learning an instrument could also prevent the mental decline.
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