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Does Language Distance Modulate the Contribution of Bilingualism to Cognitive Reserve in Seniors? A Systematic Review.

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Carthery-Goulart, Maria Teresa  ORCID logo
Privitera, Adam John  ORCID logo
Weekes, Brendan Stuart  ORCID logo


We report a systematic review and exploratory meta-regression investigating the hypothesis that the effects of bilingualism on cognitive reserve are modulated by the distance between the pair of languages a bilingual uses. An inclusive multiple database search was performed in order to identify all relevant published research conducted in bilingual seniors. A combination of qualitative and quantitative synthesis methods were used in order to investigate our research questions. Results suggest that healthy bilingual seniors speaking more distant language pairs show improved monitoring performance on cognitive tasks. Evidence regarding a modulatory influence of language distance (LD) on the age of dementia diagnosis was inconclusive due to the small number of published studies meeting our inclusion criteria. We recommend more detailed reporting of individual differences in bilingual experience to assess the impact of LD and other variables on typical cognitive aging and the development of dementia. Linguistic differences in samples should also be considered as a constraint on bilingual advantages in future studies. Preregistration: PROSPERO CRD42021238705; OSF DOI 10.17605/OSF.IO/VPRBU.


Peer reviewed: True


Alzheimer’s disease, aging, bilingualism, cognitive control, cognitive reserve, dementia, executive function, language distance, language similarity, Humans, Multilingualism, Cognitive Reserve, Language, Dementia

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Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen

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SAGE Publications
Research Grants Council of Hong Kong Humanities and Social Sciences Prestigious Fellowship Scheme (HSSPFS) (RGC project reference 37000419)