Chas' Compilation

A compilation of information and links regarding assorted subjects: politics, religion, science, computers, health, movies, music... essentially whatever I'm reading about, working on or experiencing in life.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Using physical, mental and social skills all help keep mind and memory sharp

For a Healthy Aging Brain, 'Use It or Lose It'
Social, Mental, and Physical Engagements Help Maintain Memory
[...] Although some memory decline is inevitable with age, the research now shows this decline to be highly variable from person to person.

Imaging studies also confirm that the brains of older people with no evidence of memory loss more closely resemble those of much younger people than their memory-impaired contemporaries.

This suggests that avoiding the changes linked to memory decline, rather than trying to "fix" declines that already exist, may be the key to successful aging, the researchers write.

"There is quite solid evidence that staying physically and mentally active is a way toward brain maintenance," says researcher and Umea University professor of neuroscience Lars Nyberg.

This "use it or lose it" message is not new, but the review highlights a shift in thinking about brain health in the elderly, says Pepperdine University psychology professor Louis Cozolino, PhD, who in 2008 published the book, The Healthy Aging Brain: Sustaining Attachment, Attaining Wisdom.

"The brain is a very complex organ, with many different systems," he tells WebMD. "Some of these systems start to decline in the third or fourth decade of life and others actually function better with age."
Engage Socially and Physically

Although our genes certainly play a role in how our brains age, it is now clear that our social interactions do, too, especially new interactions, Cozolino says.

"Social relationships stimulate the neurochemistry of the brain to help it stay healthy," he says. "One formula for sustained brain health is continuing to engage in social adaptation."

On the other hand, social isolation can cause accelerated brain aging, he says.

"If you want your brain to deteriorate, just watch TV all day and don't do anything else."

Garrett, who almost never watches television, agrees.

"There are two kinds of people -- those who walk into a room and turn the television on and those who walk into a room and turn it off," he says. "I turn it off."

Though Garrett certainly has good genes -- his mother lived independently until two years before her death at age 96 -- his days also include lots of social interaction. [...]

I can find too much social interaction tiring. But I find too much TV tiring, too. I like to read and study, which I'm sure also helps keep the brain sharp. I suppose there is a balance to be found, that's just right for each person. But I suppose it still comes down to the wise old adage, "use it or lose it".

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