A study, reported by the American Heart Association, found that stroke patients who were bilingual were almost twice as likely to recover normal cognitive functions after a stroke in comparison with those who only spoke one language.
In the study, researchers used the records of 608 patients that were stored in the NIMS stroke registry between the years 2006 and 2013. A bilingual patient was defined as being able to speak two or more languages and in the cohort studied over half were defined as bilingual. They found that approximately 40% of the patients that were bilingual had normal cognitive function after a stroke, compared to 20% for monolingual patients. In tests of cognitive function performed post-stroke, the bilingual patients had better attention and a better ability to retrieve information. To control for the possibility of bilingual individuals having a healthier lifestyle, they took into account other factors such as blood pressure, smoking and diet.
Researchers believe that challenges involved in swapping between languages may mean that the cognitive reserve – the ability of the brain to cope with damage such as that caused by a stroke – is increased. Subhash Kaul commented: “Our study suggests that intellectually stimulating activities pursued over time, from a young age or even starting in mid-life, can protect you from the damage brought on by a stroke.”
This research is further evidence for the benefit of speaking multiple languages. Previous research has found that being bilingual may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s and other diseases associated with dementia. However, it is not just bilingualism which can have an effect on stroke recovery; pursuing intellectual activities such as puzzles is also known to increase the probability of recovery.
Photo: Flickr, zinjixmaggir