People who speak more than one language may lose less of their brain function after a stoke, and their recovery may also be easier, a new study suggests.
In the study – published November 19 in the journal Stroke – the researchers found that the likelihood of bilingual stroke patients to have normal cognitive functions after a stroke was two times higher than that of people who spoke only one language.
The difference may occur because of the cognitive reserve of the brain, which represents the mind’s resistance to damage of the brain.
Dr. Thomas Bak, co-author of the study and a researcher at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland said that people who have more mental activities also have more interconnected brains that are better at dealing with possible damages.
For the study, Dr. Suvarna Alladi, a professor of neurology at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore, India looked at stoke patients in Hyderabad – where most people are bilingual or polyglots.
The study included 608 stroke patients, of which 353 were bilingual patients and 255 were monolingual patients. Researchers followed the patients for two years after the initial stroke.
The findings showed that more that 40 percent of the bilingual patients had normal cognitive functions after stroke, compared with 20 percent (or less) of the monolingual patients.
Both patients underwent post stroke tests to measure their abilities to organize informative, pay attention, and retrieve information. The bilingual patients were less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment, or dementia.
According to Dr. Bak, the back and forth switch between two or more languages builds more neural connections throughout the brain. A previous research conducted by Allad and Bak found that bilingualism may be able to improve concentration and lower the risk of dementia.
Dr. Jose Biller, a stoke expert and brain surgeon at Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine, said that bilingualism lessens cognitive decline linked to aging.
In the United States, stroke affects about 800,000 Americans each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated. Almost twenty percent of people who have a stroke may die, while many others are left with disabilities like speech problems, paralysed limbs, dementia, or other mental health concerns.
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