A new study indicates that bilingual patients could be twice as likely as that are monolingual to regain normal cognitive abilities after a stroke.
The study jointly conducted by researchers in India and the United Kingdom was published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke. It involved as many as 608 Indian stroke patients and over half of the patients were considered bilingual.
‘Bilingualism may boost recovery in stroke patients. The study found that people with who bilingual skills are twice as likely to successfully recover from a stroke than those who usually speak one language.’
The study also took the factors that may have affected patients' health before the stroke such as smoking, age, high blood pressure, and diabetes into consideration. The team concluded that post-stroke around 40% of the bilingual patients had normal cognitive functions. On the other hand, the same could be said of just 20% of monolingual patients. In addition to this, bilingual patients were more capable in tests that involved retrieving and organizing information.
However, scientists did not notice any difference between the groups of patients when it came to the likelihood of experiencing post-stroke aphasia. It is a disorder that affects communication functions including speech, reading and writing. The research team study cautioned against applying the results to all bilingual people.
"Constantly switching languages is a daily reality for many residents of Hyderabad," said Suvarna Alladi, lead author of the study, "The cognitive benefit may not be seen in places where the need to function in two or more languages isn't as extensive."
The team also advised that many activities, not just language learning, can help to improve cognitive function. According to them, 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.