Monthly Archives: March 2011

Maybe even a Third Language

Almost as fast as my recent blog on bilingualism and the benefit to the human brain was posted I read a research report that learning a third language can help to reduce risk of dementia. This research from the Public Center for Health in Luxembourg does suggest more languages equal a lower risk of cognitive impairment. The research was to be presented at the American Academy of Neurology in April

Seniors who practice foreign languages over their lifetime and have the ability to speak more than two languages demonstrate the cognitive protection. The research studied 230 people with average age of 73 and findings support the growing body of literature that describes cognitive reserve thought to be developed by engagement in the complex and novel.

Similar studies have shown the health promoting effects of language development and in this case development of more than two languages. In this particular study, participants who had spoken three languages were significantly more likely to be protected against cognitive impairment. Those with four languages were even better off in terms of cognitive health. Those with five or more languages had similar protection to mastering four languages.

We all might want to get started on our second, third, or fourth language today!

Computers, Exercise Linked to Lower Mild Cognitive Impairment

Moderate physical exercise combined with computer use late in life is associated with a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI). The research indicated that while both elements related to lowered risk of MCI, there was an additive interaction that created enhanced value according to Yonas Geda, M.D. who presented the research at the annual meeting of the Academy of Neurology.

A random sample of 926 elderly, ages 70 through 90, completed questionnaires on physical exercise, cognitive activities, and caloric intake during the previous year. All were considered non-demented and the diagnosis of MCI, if appropriate, came later. 817 of the original sample were considered normal cognitively and 109 were diagnosed with MCI.

Significant differences were found between the two groups as the normal subjects were younger, better educated, less likely to suffer depression, and had fewer medical problems. When these factors were controlled, the following was found:

  • Any frequency of moderate exercise was cognitively protective.
  • Any frequency of computer use was cognitively protective.
  • Caloric intake was deleterious.

When caloric intake was controlled, physical exercise and computer use had an additive interaction that was significant. For purposes of this study, computer use seemed to have more value than other cognitive enhancing activities such as reading

This study adds to other research that demonstrates brain health promoting effects of computer use with physical exercise.