Bilingualism involves multiple language systems such as phonology, semantics, syntax, grammar, and memory. Bilingualism requires numerous neural processing to respond to the demands of managing various elements. Furthermore, sustained exposure to a complicated activity strengthens the neural connections and promotes cognitive reserve. The two neurogenic regions of the adult brain associated with cognitive stimulation are the sub-ependymal zone and the dentate gyrus. The sub-ependymal zone of the lateral ventricles involves generating migratory cells. The evidence found that the neural stem cells in the sub-ependymal area have a potential source of cells for brain restoration. It happens in the sub-granular zone of the dentate gyrus, that adult-born hippocampal neurons play a role in brain restoring activities. Adult neurogenesis involves several growth factors, in which vascular endothelial growth factor promotes adult neurogenesis. Sustained cognitive activity may change the level of these growth factors that subsequently cause changes in the magnitude of neurogenic response. Bilingualism is a cognitive activity that depends on the hippocampal region, which increases the level of growth factor. It also contributes to the structural changes associated with adult neurogenesis. The increased neurogenesis and neurons induced by bilingualism later contribute to the cognitive reserve. Therefore, bilingualism increases brain activity and safeguards against cognitive dysfunction and neuropathology.
Synaptic Integrity and Synaptogenesis
Bilingualism influences the process of synaptogenesis, the formation of new synapses between the neurons. Learning and memory are the bases for the formation of new synapses. Synapses facilitate neural circuits to transfer signals to accomplish specific functions and synapses are created by experience-dependent activities to strengthen neural circuitry. Thus, bilingualism supports synaptogenesis and prompts cognitive reserve that resists cognitive decline. Functional Connectivity: Bilingualism requires the participation of multiple brain areas that are responsible for language processing including Brocaâ€™s area and Wernickeâ€™s area. The other areas of the brain involved in language processing are the dorsal lateral prefrontal cortex, dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, and subcortical regions. The neuroimaging evidence indicated that bilingualism increases functional connectivity. Functional connectivity improves executive function and consequently regulates inhibitory control. Bilingual people need to simultaneously regulate the activation of two languages, which regulates their inhibitory control. Inhibitory control facilitates a person to successfully perform various tasks. Therefore, justifying functional connectivity through learning an outer country language signifies a fundamental biological mechanism to delay the beginning of dementia.
Structural Changes in the Brain due to Bilingualism
White Matter Integrity: Generally, older adults exhibit a decline in white matter reliability as a result of the gradual process of demyelination. However, the ability to speak two languages helps them to maintain white matter integrity. Moreover, a study shows that the mean fractional anisotropy value of the left inferior occipitofrontal fasciculus pathway of a bilingual person significantly increased compared to that of a monolingual person. This evidence shows that using two different languages may have dynamic effects on white matter tracts, and this may contribute to maintaining white matter integrity. This shows that bilingualism delays Alzheimer’s symptoms by protecting white matter tracks in the frontostriatal and frontoparietal executive control circuitries. Gray Matter Density: Both aging and Alzheimer’s dementia reduce the volume of gray matter in the sensorimotor areas, hetero modal association areas, posterior hippocampus, thalamus, and middle cingulate gyrus. Learning a foreign language increases the gray matter density, promotes neural integrity, enhances cognitive reserve, and preserves brain structure.
Limitations and Possibility of Bilingualism for AD Prevention
The effectiveness of bilingualism is determined by various factors such as age, the period of second language exposure, language proficiency, and usage frequency. Also, similarities between mother language and second language, educational level of the bilingual person, and their adaptive behavior are involved in the effects of bilingualism. Moreover, learning a second language in adulthood to prevent Alzheimerâ€™s dementia involves overcoming multiple hurdles, including motivation, cost, and low frequency of use. Thus, these restrictions intercede in the treatment of different types of dementia, such as dementia-related with AD.
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