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A Systematic Review on the Possible Relationship Between Bilingualism, Cognitive Decline, and the Onset of Dementia

Research Group of Pain and Neuroscience, Kyung Hee University, Seoul 130-701, Korea
Brussels Institute for Applied Linguistics, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, 1050 Brussels, Belgium
Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, Long Island University (LIU) Brooklyn, Brooklyn, NY 11201, USA
Psychiatric Research Group, LVR-Klinik Bedburg-Hau, 47511 Bedburg-Hau, Germany
Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition, and Behaviour, Radboud University, 6525 Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Department of Medicine, Neurology, University of Fribourg, 1700 Fribourg, Switzerland
Behavioural Science Institute, Radboud University, 6525 Nijmegen, The Netherlands
College of Oriental Medicine, Sang Ji University, Wonju 26339, Korea
Department of Psychology, Ruhr University Bochum, 44801 Bochum, Germany
Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Behav. Sci. 2019, 9(7), 81;
Received: 21 June 2019 / Revised: 17 July 2019 / Accepted: 18 July 2019 / Published: 23 July 2019
A systematic review was conducted to investigate whether bilingualism has a protective effect against cognitive decline in aging and can protect against dementia. We searched the Medline, ScienceDirect, Scopus, and ERIC databases with a cut-off date of 31 March 2019, thereby following the guidelines of the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analysis (PRISMA) protocol. Our search resulted in 34 eligible studies. Mixed results were found with respect to the protective effect of bilingualism against cognitive decline. Several studies showed a protective effect whereas other studies failed to find it. Moreover, evidence for a delay of the onset of dementia of between 4 and 5.5 years in bilingual individuals compared to monolinguals was found in several studies, but not in all. Methodological differences in the set-up of the studies seem to explain these mixed results. Lifelong bilingualism is a complex individual process, and many factors seem to influence this and need to be further investigated. This can be best achieved through large longitudinal studies with objective behavioral and neuroimaging measurements. In conclusion, although some evidence was found for a cognitive reserve-enhancing effect of lifelong bilingualism and protection against dementia, to date, no firm conclusions can be drawn. View Full-Text
Keywords: aging; bilingualism; cognitive decline; cognitive reserve hypothesis; dementia; onset aging; bilingualism; cognitive decline; cognitive reserve hypothesis; dementia; onset
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Van den Noort, M.; Vermeire, K.; Bosch, P.; Staudte, H.; Krajenbrink, T.; Jaswetz, L.; Struys, E.; Yeo, S.; Barisch, P.; Perriard, B.; Lee, S.-H.; Lim, S. A Systematic Review on the Possible Relationship Between Bilingualism, Cognitive Decline, and the Onset of Dementia. Behav. Sci. 2019, 9, 81.

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