Researchers at the University of Sydney have discovered that people born overseas who first spoke a language other than English are more resistant to frontotemporal dementia than those who only speak English.
The team examined the impact of culture and language on one type of frontotemporal dementia called behavioral variant frontotemporal dementia (bvFTD).
The findings showed that current diagnostic methods may not be as effective at identifying symptoms in Australians from culturally diverse backgrounds.
Cognitive reserve is the brain’s natural defense against the progression of neurodegeneration. Factors like multilingualism, education, and working in a complex profession can increase a person’s cognitive reserve, making them more resilient to cognitive decline.
However, this reserve can also cause the diagnosis to be delayed or mistaken, resulting in a steep decline in cognition when the disease becomes visible to others.
BvFTD is is a type of dementia that affects the frontal and temporal lobes of the brain. These are the parts of the brain that control behavior, personality, language, and emotions.
The symptoms of bvFTD can include changes in behavior, such as impulsivity, lack of inhibition, apathy, and loss of empathy, as well as language problems and difficulty with executive function (planning, decision-making, and problem-solving).
The disease usually affects people under the age of 65 and is different from other types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, which primarily affects memory.
Currently, there is no cure for bvFTD, and treatment mainly focuses on managing symptoms and improving quality of life.
The researchers found that people who speak a non-English first language perform worse on verbal tests but better on non-verbal tests.
This is due to cultural biases within current clinical tests, which may cause them to show a decline when they are not actually declining.
The researchers called for more sophisticated diagnostic criteria and clinical record-keeping to address their findings.
They suggested that clinics should collect information about a patient’s cultural background, bilingualism, and education, and offer alternatives during diagnosis, such as a translator or image-based testing.
This study highlights the need for more inclusive diagnostic methods and treatment options that take into account cultural and linguistic diversity.
It is important to recognize that people from different cultural backgrounds may experience neurodegenerative diseases differently, and healthcare professionals need to be equipped to identify and address these differences.
If you care about dementia, please read studies about Vitamin B9 deficiency linked to higher dementia risk, and flavonoid-rich foods could help prevent dementia.
For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and common high blood pressure drug may treat vascular dementia.
The study was conducted by Ms. Amira Skeggs et al and published in the Journal of Neurology.
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