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Poster E60, Friday, November 10, 10:00 – 11:15 am, Harborview and Loch Raven Ballrooms

Bilingualism, Age, and the “Brain Reserve”

Stefan Heim1,2, Johanna Stumme1,2,3, Nora Bittner2,3, Christiane Jockwitz1,2,3, Katrin Amunts2,3, Svenja Caspers2,3;1RWTH Aachen University, 2Institute of Medicine (INM-1), Forschungszentrum Jülich, 3Heinrich Heine University Düsseldorf

There is a livid debate whether bilingualism contributes to a “cognitive reserve” delaying degeneration of the brain by years. Here, we present a large-scale (n=404) population-based study investigating the grey matter volume in cytoarchitectonically defined language areas in the left inferior frontal (IFG) and inferior parietal (IPL) cortex of mono- and late bilingual subjects between 25.8 and 84.2 years of age. Two core findings emerged: (1) Grey matter volume in the IPL and IFG was systematically higher in bi- than monolingual subjects. (2) The difference disappeared at higher ages, and the corresponding volume decline was stronger for bi- than monolinguals, independent of education. This paradoxical effect can be modelled as the effect of ongoing degeneration in life, which is steeper for bilinguals who initially had higher volumes immediately after second language learning. Bilingualism may thus constitute an advantage in case of brain damage at younger ages but does not help prevent neurodegeneration in older seniors.

Topic Area: Multilingualism

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