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Keeping the brain stronger through cognitive activity


Exercise is good for brain health. New studies indicate that the protective effects of an active cognitive lifestyle arise through multiple biological pathways. Researchers have been aware of a link between our brain activity and our brain health including the long term risk for dementia. Those who are more mentally active are at a lower risk for cognitive decline.

“The ideas of a ‘brain reserve’ or ‘cognitive reserve’ have been suggested to explain this, but were basically a black box. This research throws some light on what may be happening at the biological level,” said Associate Professor Michael J. Valenzuela, a brain aging expert at the Brain and Mind Research Institute, university of Sydney, Australia.

Researchers used data from a large population-based study in the UK following over 13,000 elderly people since 1991. They also examined 329 donated brains. They were rated on dementia status at death and cognitive lifestyle (CLS) score.

Among the CLS groups, there was no difference among various Alzheimer’s measures including plaque, neurofibrillary tangles and atrophy. This means cognitive lifestyle had no effect on Alzheimer’s disease.

However, an active CLS in men was found in less cerebrovascular disease. An active CLS in women associated with greater brain weight. For both men and women there was greater neuronal density and cortical thickness in the frontal lobe.

“These findings suggest that increased engagement in stimulating activities are part of a lifestyle that is, overall, more health,” commented Dr. John Krystal, Editor of Biological Psychiatry. “Rather than specifically protecting the health of activated circuits, it seems that a more active lifestyle has general effects on brain health reflected in greater neuronal density and preservation of the blood supply to the brain.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Biological Psychiatry

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