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Neuroplasticity as a model for bilingualism: Commentary on Baum and Titone

  • Ellen Bialystok (a1)


The inevitable decline of cognitive function with aging and the high incidence of clinical impairment make understanding the process of cognitive decline and the search for remediation an urgent priority. However, in spite of massive efforts in research and development, the effectiveness of pharmacological treatments for cognitive impairment remains extremely limited (Zhu et al., in press). Therefore, there is growing interest in the set of lifestyle factors that serve to maintain cognitive function even in the presence of neuropathology. These factors, called cognitive reserve (Stern, 2002), include education, occupational status, socioeconomic class, and involvement in physical, intellectual, and social activities (Bennett, Schneider, Tang, Arnold, & Wilson, 2006; Stern et al., 1994). Bilingualism appears to be another potent source of cognitive reserve (Bialystok, Craik, Green, & Gollan, 2009). For these reasons, a comprehensive review of the small but growing literature on bilingualism and cognition in aging is timely and scientifically important.



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Bennett, D. A., Schneider, J. A., Tang, Y., Arnold, S. E., & Wilson, R. S. (2006). The effect of social networks on the relation between Alzheimer's disease pathology and level of cognitive function in old people: A longitudinal cohort study. Lancet Neurology, 5, 406412.
Bialystok, E., Craik, F. I. M., Green, D. W., & Gollan, T. H. (2009). Bilingual minds. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 10, 89129.
Kroll, J. F., & Bialystok, E. (2013). Understanding the consequences of bilingualism for language processing and cognition. Journal of Cognitive Psychology, 25, 497514.
Stern, Y. (2002). What is cognitive reserve? Theory and research application of the reserve concept. Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, 8, 448460.
Stern, Y., Gurland, B., Tatemichi, T. K, Tang, M. X., Wilder, D., & Mayeux, R. (1994). Influence of education and occupation on the incidence of Alzheimer's disease. Journal of the American Medical Association, 271, 10041010.
Zhu, C. W., Livote, E. E., Scarmeas, N., Albert, M., Brandt, J., Blacker, D., et al. (in press). Long-term associations between cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine use and health outcomes among patients with Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimer's and Dementia.
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Applied Psycholinguistics
  • ISSN: 0142-7164
  • EISSN: 1469-1817
  • URL: /core/journals/applied-psycholinguistics
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