Bilingualism and Reserve: Etiology of Successful Aging
In bilingualism research, there is a rapidly growing interest towards potential neuroprotective mechanisms against age-related cognitive decline, supported by dual and multiple language use. In this brief review, we discuss existing evidence, which generally suggests that bilingualism may foster neuroplastic changes resulting in beneficial consequences for the brain both at the structural level and at the functional one during later stages of life. First, we outline the interplay between the neural function and the bilingual experience. We then propose how bilingual and multilingual experience may protect the mind and the brain from the age-related cognitive decline and its consequences. We continue by discussing the notions of cognitive and brain reserve and contextualize existing findings from bilingualism literature with regard to this newly proposed reserve framework. We highlight how bilingualism-induced neural and cognitive changes may pave the way for the development of the neural foundations of reserve: both at the neuroanatomical and at the cognitive levels. We conclude our review by proposing possible models of bilingualism-induced successful aging.