A widely held belief has it that the more we use our brains, the less likely it is that we will experience mental decline as we age, but to what extent is this notion true?
As we get older, our bodies and minds begin to lose their suppleness slowly. This is a normal effect of aging, though sometimes, the decline can be steeper and related to neurodegenerative conditions.
Existing research has suggested that people can prevent age-related mental decline if they take certain actions, one of the most important being training one’s brain by challenging it through puzzles and similar problem-solving activities.
How true is this idea? In a new, longitudinal study, researchers from the University of Aberdeen and the National Health Service (NHS) Grampian in Aberdeen — both in the United Kingdom — in collaboration with colleagues from the National University of Ireland in Galway address this question.
The research team was led by Dr. Roger Staff, who is an honorary lecturer at the University of Aberdeen, and head of medical physics at Aberdeen Royal Infirmary.
“Activity engagement is so often argued to be an important dimension of successful aging (and more specifically, the preservation of intellectual function in old age) that the ‘use it or lose it’ conjecture already appears to be an established fact of cognitive aging,” the research team writes in the study paper, which appears in The BMJ.
“We aimed to re-examine this claim by analyzing the effects of activity engagement on cognitive test performance and the trajectory of that performance in late adulthood,” the investigators explain.
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