Foreign Language Learning as an Innovative Healthy Aging Tool

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractAcademic


The prevention and treatment of cognitive decline and mood complaints are vital in our aging society, considering their association with an increased risk of developing dementia and late-life depression. Strikingly, bilingualism has been linked to a delay in symptom onset of dementia, suggesting that lifelong bilingualism boosts cognitive reserve. This project assesses whether the introduction of a bilingual experience later in life, through foreign language learning, could serve as an innovative healthy aging tool. Learning a foreign language involves interference in relation to the new language and the mother tongue, which requires cognitive flexibility (CF) to solve. CF may be especially impaired in Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and late-life depression (LLD); thus, by engaging in foreign language learning, CF may be enhanced in these populations as well as in their neurotypical peers. In this presentation we outline the method underlying this investigation. Through eye-tracking paradigms and neuropsychological testing we aim to capture the effects that ensue from foreign language learning in MCI, LLD, and neurotypical seniors. To isolate the contribution of foreign language learning to CF vis-à-vis other cognitive interventions, effects are compared to those that emerge in two additional groups of neurotypical seniors participating in musical training or a lecture series. Due to the unique interference process involved in learning a foreign language, it is expected that foreign language learning will boost CF more than other cognitive training programs. If proven successful, foreign language learning could be considered as a treatment and/or preventative method for late-life memory and mood disorders in the future.

Keywords: interventions, foreign language learning, late-life disorders
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 30-Jan-2020
EventAletta's Talent Network Junior Research Meet-Up - Duisenberg, Zernike, Groningen, Netherlands
Duration: 30-Jan-202030-Jan-2020


ConferenceAletta's Talent Network Junior Research Meet-Up
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