A new study has found that people who are mentally stimulated show less cognitive decline. This means that the brain doesn´t age as rapidly when a person does a great deal of reading and writing. “We are looking to figure out how much of your routine, day-to-day activities are involved in things we think are basically designed to acquire new information, or to process information you already had,” said Robert Wilson, senior neuropsychologist at the Ruth Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
The breakthrough was made by the Rush University Medical Center. Scientists reported that patients who do brain exercises, such as reading, writing or solving puzzles have a higher rate of staying mentally well. In other words, the study suggests that people doing brain exercises throughout their lifetime had less memory decline later in life.
“There´s been a real controversy about why a cognitively active lifestyle is associated with a lower risk of cognitive decline,” said Robert Wilson, leader of the investigation from University Medical Center in Chicago. “One theory has been that cognitive inactivity is simply a consequence of the underlying disease, rather than a true risk factor.”
Scientists from the university studied 1, 600 older adults starting in 1997, based on how many times they went to the library or challenged themselves with new information and learned new things as children and young adults. Moreover, the patients’ memory was tested regularly and they went through neurological exams.
The research also included 294 patients who died at an average age of 89 and underwent a brain autopsy to find changes related to the cognition process. The scientists who practiced the autopsies had no knowledge of the clinical evaluation data, so they weren´t predisposed to the results.
For people suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s, the results were very encouraging, because the scientists concluded that people doing a great deal of reading, writing or other mentally stimulating activities did not show symptoms of Alzheimer’s, even if they had tendencies or physical signs of suffering the disease. When people showed symptoms of dementia, the rate of cognitive decline was slower in those who stimulated their brains with writing and reading.
The experts found that for people who started exercising their brains later in life through mental challenges, the rate of cognitive decline was also lower by 32 percent in comparison with people who reported only average mental activity.
In contrast, for people who did not read or write, the rate of cognitive decline dropped 48 percent faster than average. “This confirms that the effect of cognitive activity is over and above anything having to do with pathology,” commented Charles Hall, from Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York.
Rachelle Doody, director or Alzheimer’s Disease and Memory disorders center said, “It´s a topic of great interest, that is, whether we have the capacity as humans to build our cognitive reserve in order to resist pathological processes.”
This study is very exciting for all of us who have had a loved one suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s, and tells us that the brain does not age as rapidly if we keep ourselves busy with books and writing.
By: Oskar Guzman
Source: today.com, journal neurology