Lifelong bilingualism, cognitive reserve and Alzheimer's disease: A review of findings

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Increasing our understanding about neuroprotective lifestyle variables has become a practical imperative in our aging society. Cognitive reserve (CR) refers to the use brain resources in a way that allows for coping with neuropathology and maintaining cognitive functioning. A growing body of evidence suggests that bilingualism may represent a form of CR against Alzheimer's disease (AD). The purpose of the present review is to summarize both behavioral and neuroimaging evidence for bilingualism as a reserve variable against AD. The potential influences of literacy, intelligence, immigration status are discussed. Evidence is reviewed suggesting that bilingualism may delay clinical AD symptoms by protecting against age-related declines in the brain's executive control circuitry. It is suggested that such potential beneficial effects within executive control systems may enable bilinguals to circumvent the typical effects of AD pathology on symptom expression for several years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)171-189
Number of pages19
JournalLinguistic Approaches to Bilingualism
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I thank Dr. Fergus Craik for helpful comments on a previous version of this manuscript. I gratefully acknowledge my valued colleagues at the Sanders-Brown Center on Aging and the Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy Center who contributed to some of the studies described here. Last but not least, I wish to thank Dr. Ellen Bialystok, Cari Bogulski and Margot Sullivan for devoting considerable time and effort in serving as editors of this Special Issue. This work was supported in part by a grant from the National Institutes of Health Institute of Aging (R01-AG033036). The content is solely the responsibility of the author and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NIH.

Publisher Copyright:
© John Benjamins Publishing Company.

Copyright 2018 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Aging
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Bilingual
  • Cognitive reserve

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language


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