"Being bilingual may delay Alzheimer's and boost brain power..."

Tom Givon tgivon at uoregon.edu
Tue Feb 22 23:51:43 UTC 2011

Thanks, Lise. Still, there was only an abstract there, and it does not 
answer Osten's very apt question: Are all types & degrees of 
bilingualism equally effective as to the reported effect?  I think of 
most interest, from my perspective, is this question: Is there a 
difference here between early (childhood) SLA vs. late (post-pubert) 
SLA? I keep going back to the studies by my colleague Helen Neville & 
her cohorts (early 1990s), showing a strong neurological difference 
between the two types of (fluent) bilingualism. My interpretation of her 
findings is that fluent late bilinguals work their (covert) R-cortex 
attentional system much harder to achieve their fluency, presumable to 
compensate for a much lower activation of the L-cortex IFG. If I could 
venture a guess, the subjects of the Canadian report were all immigrants 
& late-bilinguals. If true, this could mean that accelerated attentional 
work rather than bilingualism per se  is behind the phenomenon.

Apropos, it would be nice to do some comparison between high-performance 
musicians vs. non-musicians. My  guess would be that musicians who are 
good at running several melody lines (voices) simultaneously (say 
conductors? Pianists? Singers-guitarists? Singers-pianists? Good 
double-string fiddlers?) probably have accelerated attentional 
activation too. And assuming that music is just another language (to 
some of us this is sorta obvious), could fluent musicians be studied as 
another bilingual sample?

Cheers,  TG


On 2/22/2011 3:34 PM, Lise Menn wrote:
> go look at the original publication - the link is posted, in the 
> Guardian article, and here it is, also:
> http://www.neurology.org/content/75/19/1726.abstract?sid=63045016-6a3b-4c35-86d2-ea93215d4fde 
> Lise
> On Feb 22, 2011, at 3:08 PM, Östen Dahl wrote:
>> So what does "bilingual" mean in this context? It seems to me that it 
>> is being used in a rather vague way, possibly conflating quite 
>> different situations. Is a bilingual person someone who has grown up 
>> speaking more than one language, or is it anyone who has some 
>> knowledge of a second language? And it is using the second language, 
>> or knowing it, that is crucial? -- Having to speak a non-native 
>> language daily may be like solving cross-words, which is supposed to 
>> be good for keeping your cognitive abilities intact. But if you know 
>> the language from an early age, it might not take any special effort 
>> to speak it, and thus there may be no positive effect. So 
>> generalizing about "bilingual people" would be rather misleading. But 
>> maybe there are other things going on.
>> - östen
>> -----Ursprungligt meddelande-----
>> Från: funknet-bounces at mailman.rice.edu 
>> [mailto:funknet-bounces at mailman.rice.edu] För alex gross
>> Skickat: den 20 februari 2011 23:28
>> Till: funknet at mailman.rice.edu
>> Ämne: [FUNKNET] "Being bilingual may delay Alzheimer's and boost 
>> brain power..."
>> Here's some pleasant news from The Guardian, at least for those of us 
>> fortunate enough to be bi- or multi-lingual...assuming it doesn't get 
>> contradicted by another set of texts next month...
>> http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/2011/feb/18/bilingual-alzheimers-brain-power-multitasking 
>> All the best to everyone!
>> alex
> Lise Menn                      Home Office: 303-444-4274
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