BrainWare ABC – Alzheimer, Bilingualism, Creativity

There is an interesting link among this A, B and C of Brainware, particularly here in Montreal. Tip of the hat to my brother, the creator of the BrainWareMap, for the starting idea on this. One superficial link is that they’re all topics that have featured in Radio programmes this week. However there is a more important link, that was totally unexpected.

I happened to listen in on the February 6th lunch-time Radio Phone-In Show on CBC Radio Montreal with Anne Lagac? Dowson. Her guest was Dr. Serge Gauthier, Director of the Alzheimer Disease Research Unit, which is part of the McGill Centre for Studies in Aging. The subject was Alzheimer Disease. Montreal has some real strengths in the research and treatment of this distressing disease.

With our increasing senior population, this is something that affects very many families. This year is the 100th anniversary of the identification of the Disease. There were messages of hope in the programme with suggestions of ways of retarding the onset of Alzheimer Disease (use your brain more) and the news that some new medications, some developed here in Montreal, can also delay the brain damage.

The second radio show was on BBC on Wednesday evening. This was the second part of a two part series entitled Say What You Think. The pre-billing for this 30 minute talk mentioned that new research suggests that being bilingual could increase your problem solving skills and creativity. What a great topic for a city like Montreal. Your creativity is enhanced by your bilingualism. Yet one more argument for the benefits of bilingualism.

That’s certainly covered in the show, which you can listen to, but there’s even more to bilingualism than just boosting that creativity. Learning a new language can increase your grey matter, and could have cognitive advantages. Ellen Bialystok of York University, Toronto, had shown that children who grow up with more than one language, develop better problem-solving skills. She has also shown that bilingual people are better at multitasking, possibly because they constantly exercise their prefrontal cortex. In the show, she explained that bilingual people seem to have both language systems working in parallel in their brains and this strengthens their ability to switch between tasks.

Her research on bilingualism suggests that being bilingual could delay cognitive decline as we get older. Slowing down of cognitive processes is not as fast for bilingual people. There are hopes that learning languages in later life could even help to delay the onset and severity of dementia and Alzheimer Disease.

So in addition to access to two cultures through being bilingual, you have improved ability to be creative and solve problems and your mind will stay sharper longer. Just some more benefits of living in Montreal.

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