Bilingualism Protects Against Neurodegeneration in Huntington’s Disease

Sant Pau researchers demonstrate that bilingual and/or multilingual people have greater protection against neurodegeneration in Huntington’s disease. The study by researchers from the Sant Pau Research Institute’s Parkinson’s Disease and Other Movement Disorders Research Group demonstrates that the continued use of bilingualism is associated with structural and metabolic changes in the brain that have a positive impact on cognition, movement, and function.

In the study led by Dr. Saúl Martínez-Huerta, from the Research Group on Parkinson’s disease and other movement disorders of the Sant Pau Research Institute, the Sant Pau Services of Nuclear Medicine, Neurology and Imaging Diagnosis participated. Recently published in Parkinsonism and related disorders, in this study the researchers from Sant Pau addressed the impact of the intensive use of bilingualism on clinical characteristics, brain structure and function in 30 patients in the early and mild stages of Huntington’s disease, a genetically caused neurodegenerative disease that combines severe progressive motor, cognitive and behavioural symptoms. The researchers explored the effects of bilingualism on brain volume and metabolism using neuroimaging techniques.

The study shows that patients who throughout their lives have interspersed on more occasions the use of Catalan and Spanish have a better cognitive performance in certain tests, a greater brain volume in frontal areas and a very noticeably better metabolic function in different frontal-temporal areas and the anterior cingulate dorsal cortex. These changes. They are associated with both improved cognitive performance and a better overall functional status, suggesting a neuroprotective effect on disease progression.

Although the effect of bilingualism has been explored in other diseases, this is the first study to address a neurodegenerative process as complex as Huntington’s disease. The results obtained reinforce the importance of maintaining regular mental activity as a neuroprotective agent against neurodegenerative processes and highlight the extraordinary effect of alternating the use of two languages.

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