Computer Use, Exercise May Save Memory
Study Shows Mental and Physical Exercise May Help Protect Against Memory Loss
WebMD News Archive
Mental Skills: Use Them or Lose Them
A second study presented at the meeting suggests that when it comes to
mental skills, use them or lose them.
The researchers looked at cognitive reserve -- "the extra capacity that you
have to accomplish tasks mentally," says Bruce Reed, MD, professor of neurology
at the University of California at Davis.
"We all have some reserves, some have more than others," he tells WebMD.
"They protect us when we get disease or injury."
In older people, studies have shown that the amount of brain pathology at
autopsy, such as abnormal clusters of brain cells called plaques and tangles,
is a good measure of mental reserve, Reed says.
The study involved about 700 elderly people who had undergone autopsies. The
researchers found that the more mind-building exercises such as reading books
and playing games that participants did throughout life, the greater their
cognitive reserves at death.
Similarly, people with more education had greater cognitive reserve at
death, the study shows.
When the researchers looked further, they found that the effect of cognitive
activities was more important than education.
"If you have only a high school education and do a lot of cognitive actives
throughout life, you'll have greater cognitive reserves. If you have a college
education and don’t do anything with it, that predicts lower reserves and less
protection against dementia and other injury," Reed tells WebMD.
"This is fascinating work that suggests that it is the cognitively
stimulating activities that enhance brain reserve," says David Knopman, MD, a
neurologist at the Mayo Clinic.
"The researchers have made a sophisticated attempt at addressing this
question, [using] their expertise in mathematical modeling. This approach may
be the best we can do for understanding this problem [as there is no]
experiment to directly answer the question," Knopman tells WebMD.