Cognitive Ability- Use It, Or Lose It

Actively engaging in cognitive activities can help to slow the decline in cognitive ability that many older adults face. Generally, people believe that when they age they will lose cognitive ability, but this is not necessarily true. Adults who work to a later age or do brain and memory-stimulating activities, such as puzzles and reasoning games often experience cognitive decline at a reduced rate. Adults who use their brain and constantly challenge it to remember new things and work in new ways are less likely to lose these abilities than those who do not(1) .

A study by the National Institutes of Health has found that the benefits of cognitive training for older adults can last as long as 10 years. In this study, 2,800 participants ages 65 to 94 received either10 one-hour sessions of brain training over five to six weeks in memory, reasoning or speed of processing skills or to a no-training control group. At the 10-year follow-up, those who received the training in reasoning and speed of processing experienced less decline in those cognitive abilities than the non-trained participants. Participants in all three training groups reported significantly less difficulty performing daily living skills than did untrained participants(2) .

Another interesting example of this phenomena is playing video games. While children are often discouraged from playing videogames too often, it has shown that they do in fact benefit cognitive abilities in older adults. This makes sense to me because in videogames you often have to multitask and use strategies to make decisions. I find this concept really interesting because I think it offers a great deal of hope to aging people who are fearful of experiencing cognitive decline. Just as how exercising one’s body can allow them greater mobility in the future, exercising one’s brain can allow them greater cognitive function.

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