A study from earlier this year sheds light on how being mentally active may confer protection for cognitive decline. Michael Valenzuela is a researcher whose work focuses on understanding the links between mental activity over someone’s entire life and their later function. In previous studies, he and his colleagues have shown that a summary measure of cognitive activity over a person’s entire life (including such things as travel, learning a foreign language, and even playing board games) may be related to lower risk for developing dementia. In this paper, Valenzuela and his colleagues look at how what he terms the “active cognitive lifestyle” affects brain function. The study shows that the cognitive lifestyle was associated with lower risk for cerebrovascular disease in men. It was also linked to change in the frontal lobes in both men and women that suggested the development of ways of compensating for age-related changes.
Valenzuela, MJ et al. (2012) Multiple biological pathways link cognitive lifestyle to protection from dementia. Biological Psychiatry, 71, 783-791. Link to abstract is here; access to full text requires subscription.