Date of Award

Spring 2020

Document Type

Honors Thesis


Basic Biomedical Science

First Advisor

Elizabeth Hanson

Second Advisor

Joyce Keifer

Third Advisor

Angela Helmer


bilingual, Alzheimer's disease, cognitive reserve

Subject Categories

Nervous System Diseases


Given a growing incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and lack of treatments, prevention is a popular topic in both research literature (Angevaren et al., 2008; Orrell & Sahakian, 1995) and in news articles (Iacono et al., 2009). A cognitive reserve is a skill that improves cognitive functioning in executive controls. Bilingualism is believed to be a practice that increases cognitive reserve, which could delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

The purpose of this project was to analyze the possibility that bilingualism or multilingualism could create a cognitive reserve to delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related diseases. This systematic review asks the question: Can bilingualism and multilingualism function as a protective mechanism and create a cognitive reserve to delay the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related diseases?

The PRISMA approach was used and evidence was gathered from the databases of PubMed and Web of Science. Evidence was screened for inclusion and appraised for quality by following similar criteria to the study from Mukadam and collegues (2017). The results of the studies were summarized through tables and comparisons. Neural reserve and cognitive reserve studies investigating both structural and behavioral differences found greater statistical differences for bilinguals and multilinguals, showing a potential benefit of language usage towards preventing Alzheimer’s disease and other dementia-related disease. Studies only investigating cognitive reserve did not find as overwhelming evidence for multiple language use to delay such diseases. I hope to clarify the debatable role of multiple languages to create a cognitive reserve that may delay Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.



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