A potential protective effect in multilingual patients with semantic dementia: Two case reports of patients speaking Taiwanese and Japanese

Yi Chien Liu, Ping Keung Yip, Yu Ming Fan, Kenichi Meguro

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Purpose: Several reports have suggested that multilingualism has a protective effect against semantic dementia. Here, we provide further evidence for this effect. Case Reports: First: The patient was a 75-year-old right-handed Taiwanese woman who had retired after working as a tailor. She was able to speak Taiwanese, Japanese and Mandarin Chinese fluently until 5 years ago. She gradually developed symptoms of profound anomia and difficulty with word-finding. Her mother tongue was Taiwanese and she had learned Japanese as her first symbolized language. She had used Mandarin Chinese for most of her life, but depended on Japanese to read and write (such as reading a newspaper and keeping accounts). However, she could now speak only very simple Taiwanese and Japanese, and could recognize only simple Japanese characters. Second: The patient was a 62-year-old right-handed man who had worked as an ironworker. He could speak Taiwanese and Mandarin Chinese fluently until 5 years ago. His mother tongue was Taiwanese. After 5 years of language deterioration, he was unable to communicate with his family members or recognize any characters, including numbers. SPECT results: Brain perfusion ECD SPECT (Tc-99m-ethyl cysteinate dimer single-photon emission computed tomography) showed less perfusion in the multilingual patient (Case #1) than in the bilingual patient (Case #2). Neuropsychological tests also demonstrated a slower rate of degeneration in the multilingual patient. Conclusion: We speculate that reading and writing in Japanese had a greater impact on the semantic system in Case #1. Thus, this patient showed relatively less degeneration or functional inactivity, as shown by perfusion in the frontal lobe, and this might be due to the persistent activation involved in multilingualism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-30
Number of pages6
JournalActa Neurologica Taiwanica
Volume21
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • Bilingualism
  • Cognitive reserve
  • Multilingualism
  • Neurodegenerative disease
  • Primary progressive dementia
  • Semantic dementia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology

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