Poster: Does the greater efficiency of executive control of bilinguals act as a compensatory mechanism against cognitive decline?

International Neuropsychological Society 2016 Mid-Year Meeting

Authors: Mireia Hernández, Marco Calabria, Gabriele Cattaneo, Anna Suades, Montserrat Juncadella, Ramón Reñé, Isabel Sala, Alberto Lleó, Jordi Ortiz-Gil, Lidia Ugas, César Ávila, Albert Costa

Objective: There is growing evidence that bilingualism acts as a cognitive reserve mechanism in older adults and age-related disorders such as dementia. However, there is no clear agreement about the underlying mechanisms of it. The aim of this study is to investigate of such bilingual advantage by using a range of tasks of executive control, attention and episodic memory in early and late bilinguals.

Participants and Methods: 40 bilinguals with Alzheimer’s disease and 40 age-matched older bilinguals were tested. Half of participants of each group were early and high proficient in Catalan and Spanish and half were Spanish speakers with late acquisition of Catalan as a second language. All participants were tested in several tasks: ANT, spatial stroop, task switching, recognition memory, picture naming and language switching.

Results: Distributional analyses (ex-Gaussian) were used to analyze the data. Preliminary results showed that early and high proficient bilingual AD patients outperformed late bilinguals in EC tasks. Interestingly, group differences were found for those components of the ex-Gaussian distribution that have been related to more demanding processes of EC. Moreover, the advantage survived after having controlled for other cognitive reserve factors and the level of education.

Conclusions: First, these preliminary data add new evidence that bilingualism acts a cognitive reserve mechanism. Second, it seems that the age of acquisition of second language has a crucial role in determining such bilingual advantage. Finally, such advantage should be driven by ‘compensatory’ mechanisms from the EC system in protecting against cognitive decline.