Volume 6, Issue 5
  • ISSN 1879-9264
  • E-ISSN: 1879-9272
Buy:$35.00 + Taxes


Recent studies of bilingualism as a protective factor in cognitive aging have reported conflicting findings, and researchers have begun to explore the methodological complications that may explain differences across studies. This article details the current research landscape and addresses several issues relevant to the study of bilingualism and late-life cognitive function: study design, establishing causal relationships, confounding factors, operationalizing bilingualism, predicting cognitive level versus cognitive change, and incorporating brain structural variables to interrogate cognitive reserve.


Article metrics loading...

Loading full text...

Full text loading...


  1. Alladi, S. , Bak, T.H. , Duggirala, V. , Surampudi, B. , Shailaja, M. , Shukla, A.K. , Chaudhuri, J.R. , & Kaul, S.
    (2013) Bilingualism delays age at onset of dementia, independent of education and immigration status. Neurology, 81 (22), 1938–1944. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000436620.33155.a4
    https://doi.org/10.1212/01.wnl.0000436620.33155.a4 [Google Scholar]
  2. Allin, S. , Masseria, C. , & Mossialos, E.
    (2009) Measuring socioeconomic differences in use of health care services by wealth versus by income. American Journal of Public Health, 99, 1849–1855. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2008.141499
    https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2008.141499 [Google Scholar]
  3. Bak, T.
    (2016) The impact of bilingualism on cognitive aging and dementia: finding a path through a forest of confounding variables. Linguistic Approaches to Bilingualism. doi: 10.1075/lab.15002.bak
    https://doi.org/10.1075/lab.15002.bak [Google Scholar]
  4. Bak T. , & Alladi, S.
    (2016) Bilingualism, dementia and the tale of many variables: Why we need to move beyond the Western world. Commentary on Lawton et al. (2015) and Fuller-Thomson (2015) Cortex74, 315–317. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2015.04.025
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2015.04.025 [Google Scholar]
  5. Bak, T.H. , Nissan, J.J. , Allerhand, M.M. , & Deary, I.J.
    (2014) Does bilingualism influence cognitive aging?Annals of Neurology, 75, 959–963. doi: 10.1002/ana.24158
    https://doi.org/10.1002/ana.24158 [Google Scholar]
  6. Bialystok, E. , Craik, F. I. , & Freedman, M.
    (2007) Bilingualism as a protection against the onset of symptoms of dementia. Neuropsychologia, 45, 459–464. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.10.009
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2006.10.009 [Google Scholar]
  7. Bialystok, E. , Craik, F. I. , Klein, R. , & Viswanathan, M.
    (2004) Bilingualism, aging, and cognitive control: Evidence from the Simon task. Psychology and Aging, 19, 290–303. doi: 10.1037/0882‑7974.19.2.290
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0882-7974.19.2.290 [Google Scholar]
  8. Chertkow, H. , Whitehead, V. , Phillips, N. , Wolfson, C. , Atherton, J. , & Bergman, H.
    (2010) Multilingualism (but not always bilingualism) delays the onset of Alzheimer disease: Evidence from a bilingual community. Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders, 24 (2), 118–125. doi: 10.1097/WAD.0b013e3181ca1221
    https://doi.org/10.1097/WAD.0b013e3181ca1221 [Google Scholar]
  9. Craik, F. I. , Bialystok, E. , & Freedman, M.
    (2010) Delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s disease: bilingualism as a form of cognitive reserve. Neurology, 75, 1726–1729. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181fc2a1c
    https://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0b013e3181fc2a1c [Google Scholar]
  10. Crane, P.K. , Gibbons, L.E. , Arani, K. , Nguyen, V. , Rhoads, K. , McCurry, S.M. , Launer, L. , Masaki, K. , & White, L.
    (2009) Midlife use of written Japanese and protection from late life dementia. Epidemiology, 20, 766–774. doi: 10.1097/EDE.0b013e3181b09332
    https://doi.org/10.1097/EDE.0b013e3181b09332 [Google Scholar]
  11. Farias, S.T. , Mungas, D. , Reed, B.R. , Harvey, D. , & DeCarli, C.
    (2009) Progression of Mild Cognitive Impairment to Dementia in Clinic- vs Community-Based Cohorts. Archives of Neurology, 66 (9), 1151–1157. doi: 10.1001/archneurol.2009.106
    https://doi.org/10.1001/archneurol.2009.106 [Google Scholar]
  12. Fratiglioni, L , Paillard-Borg, S. , & Winblad, B.
    (2004) An active and socially integrated lifestyle in late life might protect against dementia. Lancet Neurology, 3 (6), 343–353. doi: 10.1016/S1474‑4422(04)00767‑7
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(04)00767-7 [Google Scholar]
  13. Fuller-Thomson, E.
    (2015) Emerging evidence contradicts the hypothesis that bilingualism delays dementia onset. A Commentary on “Age of dementia diagnosis in community dwelling bilingual and monolingual Hispanic Americans” by Lawton et al., 2015. Cortex, 66, 170–172. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2015.01.024
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2015.01.024 [Google Scholar]
  14. Fuller-Thomson, E. , & Kuh, D.
    (2014) The healthy immigrant effect may confound the link between bilingualism and delayed onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Cortex, 52, 128–130. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2013.08.009
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2013.08.009 [Google Scholar]
  15. Fuller-Thomson, E. , Nuru-Jeter, A. , Richardson, D. , Raza, F. , & Minkler, M.
    (2013) The Hispanic Paradox and older adults’ disabilities: is there a healthy migrant effect?. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 10, 1786–1814. doi: 10.3390/ijerph10051786
    https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph10051786 [Google Scholar]
  16. Glymour, M.
    (2006) Using Causal Diagrams to Understand Common Problems in Social Epidemiology. In J. Oakes , & J. Kaufman (Eds.). Methods in Social Epidemiology (pp.393–428). San Francisco: Wiley and Sons.
    [Google Scholar]
  17. Gollan, T.H. , Salmon, D.P. , Montoya, R.I. , & Galasko, D.R.
    (2011) Degree of bilingualism predicts age of diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease in low-education but not in highly educated Hispanics. Neuropsychologia, 49, 3826–3830. doi: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.09.041
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2011.09.041 [Google Scholar]
  18. Guzman-Velez, E. , & Tranel, D.
    (2015) Does Bilingualism contribute to cognitive reserve? Cognitive and neural perspectives. Neuropsychology, 29 (1), 139–150. doi: 10.1037/neu0000105
    https://doi.org/10.1037/neu0000105 [Google Scholar]
  19. Hill, T. , Angel, J. , & Balistreri, K.
    (2012) Does the ‘healthy immigrant effect’ extend to cognitive aging?In J. Angel , F. Torres-Gil , & K. Markides (Eds.). Aging, Health, and Longevity in the Mexican-Origin Population (pp.19–33). New York: Springer. doi: 10.1007/978‑1‑4614‑1867‑2_3
    https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-1867-2_3 [Google Scholar]
  20. Hinton, L. , Franz, C.E. , Yeo, G. , & Levkoff, S.E.
    (2005) Conceptions of dementia in a multi-ethnic sample of family caregivers. Journal of American Geriatric Society, 53(8), 1405–1410. doi: 10.1111/j.1532‑5415.2005.53409.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1532-5415.2005.53409.x [Google Scholar]
  21. Kaushanskaya M. , & Prior A.
    (2015) Variability in the effects of bilingualism on cognition: it is not just about cognition, it is also about bilingualism. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 18, 27–28. doi: 10.1017/S1366728914000510
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728914000510 [Google Scholar]
  22. Kavé, G. , Eyal, N. , Shorek, A. , & Cohen-Mansfield, J.
    (2008) Multilingualism and cognitive state in the oldest old. Psychology and Aging, 23, 70–79. doi: 10.1037/0882‑7974.23.1.70
    https://doi.org/10.1037/0882-7974.23.1.70 [Google Scholar]
  23. Kormi-Nouri, R. , Shojael, R.S. , Moniri, S. , Gholami, A.R. , Akbari-Zardkhaneh, S. , & Nilsson, L.G.
    (2008) The effect of childhood bilingualism on episodic and semantic memory tasks. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 49, 93–109. doi: 10.1111/j.1467‑9450.2008.00633.x
    https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9450.2008.00633.x [Google Scholar]
  24. Kovács, Á.M. , & Mehler, J.
    (2009) Cognitive gains in 7-month-old bilingual infants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA, 106, 6556–6560. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0811323106
    https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0811323106 [Google Scholar]
  25. Lawton, D.M. , Gasquoine, P.G. , & Weimer, A.A.
    (2015) Age of dementia diagnosis in community dwelling bilingual and monolingual Hispanic Americans. Cortex, 66, 141–145. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2014.11.017
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2014.11.017 [Google Scholar]
  26. Loizou, M. , & Stuart, M.
    (2003) Phonological awareness in monolingual and bilingual English and Greek five-year-olds. Journal of Research on Reading, 26, 3–18. doi: 10.1111/1467‑9817.261002
    https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-9817.261002 [Google Scholar]
  27. Luk, G. , & Bialystok, E.
    (2013) Bilingualism is not a categorical variable: Interaction between language proficiency and usage. Journal of Cognitive Psychology (Hove, England), 25 (5), 605–621. doi: 10.1080/20445911.2013.795574
    https://doi.org/10.1080/20445911.2013.795574 [Google Scholar]
  28. Luk, G. , Bialystok, E. , Craik, F.I. , & Grady, C.L.
    (2011) Lifelong bilingualism maintains white matter integrity in older adults. Journal of Neuroscience, 16, 16808–16813. doi: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4563‑11.2011
    https://doi.org/10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4563-11.2011 [Google Scholar]
  29. Manly, J.J. , Jacobs, D.M. , Touradji, P. , Small, S.A. , & Stern, Y.
    (2002) Reading level attenuates differences in neuropsychological test performance between African American and White elders. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 8, 341–348. doi: 10.1017/S1355617702813157
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1355617702813157 [Google Scholar]
  30. Paap, K.R. , Johnson, H.A. , & Sawi, O.
    (2016) Should the search for bilingual advantages in executive function continue?Cortex, 74, 305–314. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2015.09.010
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2015.09.010 [Google Scholar]
  31. Prior, A. & Gollan, T.H.
    (2011) Good Language-Switchers are Good Task-Switchers: Evidence from Spanish-English and Mandarin-English Bilinguals. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 17, 682–691. doi: 10.1017/S1355617711000580
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1355617711000580 [Google Scholar]
  32. Sachdev, P. & Valenzuela, M.
    (2009) Brain and cognitive reserve. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 17 (3): 175–178. doi: 10.1097/JGP.0b013e318196a661
    https://doi.org/10.1097/JGP.0b013e318196a661 [Google Scholar]
  33. Sanders, A.E. , Hall, C.B. , Katz, M.J. , & Lipton, R.B.
    (2012) Non-native language use and risk of incident dementia in the elderly. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, 29, 99–108.
    [Google Scholar]
  34. Scaltritti, M. , Peressotti, F. , & Miozzo, M.
    (2015) Bilingual advantage and language switch: What’s the linkage?. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition. doi: 10.1017/S1366728915000565
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728915000565 [Google Scholar]
  35. Schweizer, T.A. , Ware, J. , Fischer, C.E. , Craik, F.I. , & Bialystok, E.
    (2012) Bilingualism as a contributor to cognitive reserve: evidence from brain atrophy in Alzheimer’s disease. Cortex, 48 (8), 991–996. doi: 10.1016/j.cortex.2011.04.009
    https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cortex.2011.04.009 [Google Scholar]
  36. Stern, Y.
    (2002) What is cognitive reserve? Theory and research application of the reserve concept. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 8, 448–460. doi: 10.1017/S1355617702813248
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1355617702813248 [Google Scholar]
  37. (2012) Cognitive reserve in ageing and Alzheimer’s disease. Lancet Neurology, 11 (11), 1006–1012. doi: 10.1016/S1474‑4422(12)70191‑6
    https://doi.org/10.1016/S1474-4422(12)70191-6 [Google Scholar]
  38. Tao, L. , Taft, M. , & Gollan, T.
    (2015) The Bilingual Switching Advantage: Sometimes Related to Bilingual Proficiency, Sometimes Not. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 21, 531–544. doi: 10.1017/S1355617715000521
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1355617715000521 [Google Scholar]
  39. Valian, V.
    (2014) Bilingualism and cognition. Bilingualism: Language and Cognition, 18, 3–24. doi: 10.1017/S1366728914000522
    https://doi.org/10.1017/S1366728914000522 [Google Scholar]
  40. Yeung, C.M. , St. John, P.D. , Menec, V. , & Tyas, S.L.
    (2014) Is bilingualism associated with a lower risk of dementia in community-living older adults? Cross-sectional and prospective analyses.Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders, 28, 326–332. doi: 10.1097/WAD.0000000000000019
    https://doi.org/10.1097/WAD.0000000000000019 [Google Scholar]
  41. Yow, W.Q. , & Li, X.
    (2015) Balanced bilingualism and early age of second language acquisition as the underlying mechanisms of a bilingual executive control advantage: why variations in bilingual experiences matter. Frontiers in Psychology, 6, 164. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00164
    https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2015.00164 [Google Scholar]
  42. Zahodne, L.B. , Schofield, P.W. , Farrell, M. , Stern, Y. , & Manly, J.J.
    (2014) Bilingualism does not alter age-related cognitive decline or dementia risk among Spanish-speaking immigrants. Neuropsychology, 28, 238–246. doi: 10.1037/neu0000014
    https://doi.org/10.1037/neu0000014 [Google Scholar]

Data & Media loading...

  • Article Type: Research Article
Keyword(s): bilingualism and dementia; Cognitive aging trajectories; cognitive reserve
This is a required field
Please enter a valid email address
Approval was successful
Invalid data
An Error Occurred
Approval was partially successful, following selected items could not be processed due to error