Computer Use May Help Seniors' Memory Problems
But, experts note that the study can't prove cause-and-effect
By Alan Mozes
THURSDAY, March 3, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- Seniors who use their computers as little as once a week may help ward off age-related declines in memory and thinking, new research suggests.
The study found that those who did use a computer showed a 42 percent lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), a precursor to dementia.
What isn't yet clear is exactly how computer use might help save memory and thinking abilities.
"We did not investigate mechanisms that might underlie the association between mentally stimulating activities such as computer use and the risk of incident MCI," said study author Janina Krell-Roesch, a research fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Ariz. "Therefore, we can only speculate why computer use might be of help."
Seniors who reach for their keyboards may simply be more likely to adhere to a generally healthier and more "disciplined" lifestyle, Krell-Roesch suggested. Or, it could be that computer use actually brings about beneficial brain changes. It's also possible that computers may help seniors compensate and cope more effectively when mild memory and thinking problems do start to set in. Or, it could be a combination of all three, she said.
It's also important to note that this study wasn't designed to prove a cause-and-effect relationship. It can only show an association between computer use and better memory and thinking with age.
Krell-Roesch is to present the findings in April at the American Academy of Neurology's annual meeting, in Vancouver, Canada. Findings presented at meetings are generally viewed as preliminary until they've been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
To explore how computer use and other forms of mental stimulation might affect dementia risk, the study included more than 1,900 seniors. None had signs of thinking or memory problems when the trial began. All were 70 or older.
All of the seniors completed an activity questionnaire about the year that had just passed. Stimulating activity options included reading, socializing, game-playing and craft-making, as well as computer use. The health of study volunteers was then followed for an average of four years.