Keeping mentally busy tied to less memory loss
NEW YORK— People who spend a lot of time reading, writing and otherwise seeking and processing new information lose their thinking and memory skills more slowly as they age, a new study suggests.
Researchers found being “cognitively active” both early and later in life was tied to better performance on memory tests among people in their 80s.
That was still the case once they autopsied participants' brains when they died and accounted for changes that signal cognitive problems, such as early Alzheimer's disease.
“There's been a real controversy about why a cognitively active lifestyle is associated with (a lower risk of) cognitive decline,” said Robert Wilson, who led the study at Rush 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.”
The new study, Wilson said, suggests the link is not explained by people who have more diseased brains being less active in old age.
He and his colleagues asked more than 1,600 older adults starting in 1997 about how often they went to the library, wrote letters and sought information as a child and young adult and more recently. Then they gave participants a thinking and memory test every year.
Compared with people with average late-life cognitive activity, thinking and memory skills declined 48 percent faster among those with infrequent activity and 32 percent slower among those who were the most cognitively active.
Likewise, the study team found cognition declined 42 percent faster for participants who rarely read and wrote early in life than for the average person and 32 percent slower for the very cognitively active.
“This confirms that the effect of cognitive activity is over and above anything having to do with pathology,” said Charles Hall, who has studied the effects of mental activity at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y.
The study, published in Neurology, does not prove that being mentally active wards off cognitive decline. But Wilson said he thinks it “moves us closer to that.”
Keeping mentally busy shouldn't be a chore, he added. Photography, quilting and book clubs may all keep people's minds working.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Scathing report says college trustees fail in mission
- Weight loss differs between the sexes
- Lighthouse sale draws $78K bid off cost of Portland, Maine
- Mortgage deal isn’t likely to cost $17B
- Assad’s chemical weapons stockpile destroyed, U.S. declares
- Health care data breaches hit 30M patients and counting
- ISIS beheads American photojournalist who was kidnapped 2 years ago in Syria
- Florida looks good: Farmer’s Almanac predicts ‘super-cold’ winter, above-average snow for Northeast
- Beheading doesn’t deter U.S., who launches new airstrikes
- Contraception, abstinence push U.S. teen birthrates to historic lows