The impact of bilinguism on cognitive aging and dementia: Finding a path through a forest of confounding variables

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Within the current debates on cognitive reserve, cognitive aging and dementia, showing increasingly a positive effect of mental, social and physical activities on health in older age, bilingualism remains one of the most controversial issues. Some reasons for it might be social or even ideological. However, one of the most important genuine problems facing bilingualism research is the high number of potential confounding variables. Bilingual communities often differ from monolingual ones in a range of genetic and environmental variables. In addition, within the same population, bilingual individuals could be different from the outset from those who remain monolingual. We discuss the most common confounding variables in the study of bilingualism, aging and dementia, such as group heterogeneity, migration, social factors, differences in general intelligence and the related issue of reverse causality. We describe different ways in which they can be minimized by the choice of the studied populations and the collected data. In this way the emerging picture of the interaction between bilingualism and cognitive aging becomes more complex, but also more convincing.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)205-226
JournalLinguistic Approaches to Bilingualism
Volume6
Issue number1-2
Early online date25 Jan 2016
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2016

Keywords

  • cognitive ageing
  • confounding variables
  • dementia

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