You may among the select few that keep their brains running at full speed to prevent future cognitive decline, but recent research has one piece of disappointing news. Mayo Clinic researchers found that brain workouts do not prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. They could at most delay symptoms.
According to the new study, an ‘enriched cognitive lifestyle’ in midlife has no effect on the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, but it may slow down its onset. Researchers measured the rate of changes in the brain by measuring the levels of amyloid plaques, brain size and metabolism of glucose in the brain tissue.
Mayo researchers also failed to find a link between physical exercise in midlife and lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
The study was published this week in the journal Neurology.
Nevertheless, researchers found that the amount of amyloid plaques, which are an early sign of Alzheimer’s disease, was lower in the brains of study participants who kept their brains alert in midlife.
These participants said that they decided to never stop learning in middle age to ward off Alzheimer’s. For this purpose, they either routinely used a computer, read books or newspapers, learned foreign languages, or played mind-enhancing games.
Still, all these people were highly educated, i.e. they had at least 14 years of education. The study revealed that people who neglected their brains had twice as much amyloid plaques in their brains than people who struggled to keep their minds sharp in midlife.
The study involved 393 participants who were monitored by Mayo Clinic’s anti-aging experts in a separate study conducted between 2004 and 2011. The minimum age was 70, while 340 participants had no diagnosis of Alzheimer’s.
Volunteers were asked to answer a series of questions on their lifestyle including physical activity and brain games. Plus, researchers performed brain scans at different times to see how the brain of participants fared during the study.
Dr. Prashanthi Vemuri, lead author of the study and researcher with the Mayo Clinic, noted that brain scans showed a significant difference in the amount of amyloid plaques between seniors with a sedentary brain and those intellectually active.
Study authors said that the findings confirmed past research that had found a similar difference in the brains of the intellectually inactive and those active and with at least 16 years of education.
Researchers concluded that high cognitive activity in mid and late life may benefit seniors, regardless of their level of education and educational background.
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