Bilingualism protects anterior temporal lobe integrity in aging

Jubin Abutalebi, Matteo Canini, Pasquale A. Della Rosa, Lo Ping Sheung, David W. Green, Brendan S. Weekes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cerebral gray-matter volume (GMV) decreases in normal aging but the extent of the decrease may be experience-dependent. Bilingualism may be one protective factor and in this article we examine its potential protective effect on GMV in a region that shows strong age-related decreases-the left anterior temporal pole. This region is held to function as a conceptual hub and might be expected to be a target of plastic changes in bilingual speakers because of the requirement for these speakers to store and differentiate lexical concepts in 2 languages to guide speech production and comprehension processes. In a whole brain comparison of bilingual speakers (n= 23) and monolingual speakers (n= 23), regressing out confounding factors, we find more extensive age-related decreases in GMV in the monolingual brain and significantly increased GMV in left temporal pole for bilingual speakers. Consistent with a specific neuroprotective effect of bilingualism, region of interest analyses showed a significant positive correlation between naming performance in the second language and GMV in this region. The effect appears to be bilateral though because there was a nonsignificantly different effect of naming performance on GMV in the right temporal pole. Our data emphasize the vulnerability of the temporal pole to normal aging and the value of bilingualism as both a general and specific protective factor to GMV decreases in healthy aging.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2126-2133
Number of pages8
JournalNeurobiology of Aging
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • Aging
  • Bilingualism
  • Language proficiency
  • Temporal pole (TP)
  • Voxel based morphometry (VBM)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Ageing
  • Developmental Biology
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Medicine(all)


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