Earlier this year I blogged about the amazing study published in January in Archives of Neurology declaring that people who exercise their brains consistently throughout their lives, by playing games, as well as engaging in continual new learning, live healthier and cognitively smarter lives as they age, and possibly reduce Alzheimer’s pathology.
A recent review in the British online publication, The Cochrane Library came out February 15, 2012, stating “cognitive stimulation improves functioning in people with dementia.” A total of 718 participants involved in 15 trials provided findings that cognitive stimulation has a beneficial effect on memory and thinking test scores in people with dementia. There was also evidence that the people with dementia reported improved quality of life, communicated and interacted better than prior to participating in the cognitive stimulation through word games, puzzles, reminiscence and practical activities such as baking and indoor gardening.
This is fantastic news and needs to be shared: “exercising your brain is good for you and it may keep you healthier in a cognitive way much longer, even if you have early diagnosis of dementia.” In the past month there have been even more studies showing the benefits of keeping yourself cognitively stimulated by doing simple things such as playing games and staying socially engaged.
It is never too late to begin exercising your brain
Dr. Robert Wilson and his team at Rush University Medical Center have published the outcomes of two studies (Neurology, April 4, 2012) reporting that late-life cognitive activity does improve cognitive health. One of Dr. Wilson’s studies tracked almost 1100 people with the average age of 80 for close to 5 years. Final outcomes confirm that activities such as reading, socializing, playing bridge and board games stave off mental decline. Especially noted in this study was the activity changes in the temporal and hippocampus regions of the brain, where working memory functions. The study concluded that even in older adults, frequent mental stimulation by way of playing games, leads to better cognitive functioning.
“Part of what your brain is like in old age has to do with what you’re asking it to do on a regular basis,” said Dr. Wilson, professor of neurological and behavioral sciences. “Engaging in mentally stimulating activities is one course to improving the health of your brain.”
It has taken much too long for this research to show us that we do indeed have to provide stimulation to our brains by learning new things. With 1 in 8 older adults (over age 65) being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, it is imperative that we do even the simplest things such as learning and playing new games constantly to stave off the symptoms of dementia.
Since my last blog submission I am constantly learning new games to play, such as Gotcha, a social and memory engaging fun activity, Distraction, an intense attention, focus and memory game, and Color Code, a hands-on multi-dimension visual processing exercise. All are quite challenging and because of that, I know I am exercising my brain. How about you?
Landau, et al, (January 23, 2012) Archives of Neurology
Woods B, Aguirre E, Spector AE, Orrell M. Cognitive stimulation to improve cognitive functioning in people with dementia. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2012, Issue 2. Art. No.: CD005562.
Wilson et al. (April 4, 2012). Neurology 287, 742-748.