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Dementia & Neuropsychologia

Print version ISSN 1980-5764

Dement. neuropsychol. vol.2 no.4 São Paulo Oct./Dec. 2008

https://doi.org/10.1590/S1980-57642009DN20400002 

Views & Reviews

Normal and abnormal aging in bilinguals

O envelhecimento normal e anormal em idosos bilíngües

Alfredo Ardila 1  

Eliane Ramos 1  

1Florida International University, Miami, Florida, USA


Abstract

Bilinguals use two different language systems to mediate not only social communication, but also cognitive processes. Potential differences between bilinguals and monolinguals in task-solving strategies and patterns of cognitive decline during normal and abnormal aging have been suggested. Main contribution: A research review of the area suggests that normal aging is associated with increased interference between the two languages and tendency to retreat to a single language. General cognitive functioning has been found to be higher in demented bilingual patients if communication is carried out in L1 rather than in L2. Recent research has reported that bilingualism can have a protective effect during aging, attenuating the normal cognitive decline associated with aging, and delaying the onset of dementia. Conclusions: Regardless of the significant heterogeneity of bilingualism and the diversity of patterns in language use during life-span, current research suggests that bilingualism is associated with preserved cognitive test performance during aging, and potentially can have some protective effect in dementia.

Key words: bilingualism; normal aging; cognition; dementia.

Resumo

Pessoas bilingües usam dois sistemas linguísticos distintos na mediação da comunicação social e de processos cognitivos. Em consequência, podem usar estratégias particulares na solução de tarefas específicas, assim como podem passar por processos distintos de declínio cognitivo no envelhecimento normal ou anormal. Contribuição: Uma revisão da literatura da área sugere que o envelhecimento normal está relacionado com interferência progressiva entre as duas linguas e tendência a retroceder ao uso exclusivo de uma lingua. Em alguns estudos, pacientes bilingües com demência demonstram melhor função cognitiva na comunicação em L1 do que em L2. Em investigações recentes, o bilingüismo tem mostrado um efeito protetor no envelhecimento, atenuando o declínio cognitivo normal e retardando o princípio da demência. Conclusões: Apesar da grande heterogeneidade presente em populações bilingües e da diversidade de padrões de uso das duas linguas em diferentes estágios de vida, estudos recentes sugerem que o bilingüismo está relacionado a melhores resultados em testes de cognição em idade avançada e, potencialmente, a um efeito protetor na demência.

Palavras-chave: bilinguismo; envelhecimento; cognição; demência.

Texto completo disponível apenas em PDF.

Full text available only in PDF format.

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Received: October 02, 2008; Accepted: October 20, 2008

Alfredo Ardila - Florida International University, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, HLS139, Miami, Florida 33199, USA. E-mail: ardilaa@fiu.edu.

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