Yesterday, I found myself being asked questions by a researcher for a theological project that had been answered in my first book about dementia, ‘Could it Be Dementia? Losing your mind doesn’t mean losing your soul.’   While going through the manuscript to make sure I hadn’t imagined it, I came across a little piece about how reading (and possibly using) the language of Shakespeare strengthens your brain.  There’s a lot about today about digital brain training programs, but experts agree that, in the main, they train your brain in that particular process only.  Not everybody likes digital games, anyway. So here’s what I found in 2007 (the book was published in 2008).

“Read Shakespeare or the Authorised Version

If you do not like technology, you can turn to language.  Shakespeare is good for your brain, say researchers at the University of Liverpool.  They are looking to see if wrestling with the differently structured use of language could help to prevent dementia.  (Good news for aficionados of the original King James Version of the Bible.)  Monitoring participants with brain-imaging equipment they found that certain lines from Shakespeare and other great writers such as Chaucer and Wordsworth caused the brain to spark with electrical activity because of the unusual words or sentence structure.[1]  And researchers at York University in Toronto say that people who are bilingual and speak both languages every day for most of their lives can delay the onset of dementia by up to four years, compared with those who only know one language. [2] The Western Mail in South Wales was quick to pounce on this story and ran it with the headline, ‘Learn Welsh and fight off the onset of dementia’. ”

Time to brush up your Shakespeare!  And to enthuse you, here’s the lively little song on Youtube:



Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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