Friday, February 29, 2008

Warm Up the Brain with Exercise

Keeping the mind limber really does help it work more efficiently. This is being proved in a school in England whose students' test scores have improved, while other schools in the region have seen test scores steadily slipping.

Warblington School in Havant, Hampshire has encouraged students to engage in reading books for fun and to exercise the brain. Students are also quizzed via computer on the stories they read.

Before exams, students attend "mind gym" sessions to get the brain warmed up for the task ahead. If the exam will be on math, the students receive a math lesson to limber up the brain. The program was started one year ago and already has had impact on test scores.

It's no secret that keeping the brain active, through reading and brain exercises, can improve cognitive function. This is true whether you are a young school student or an older adult. To keep the brain nimble and quick, keep it learning.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Fewer Older Americans Suffering Cognitive Impairment

Older Americans are suffering less cognitive decline, according to a study by researcher at the University of Michigan Medical Center. The findings indicate that the rate of cognitive impairment went down from 12.2 percent to 8.7 percent in persons over 70 years of age. Cognitive impairment includes anything from memory problems to Alzheimer's.

What the study found was that seniors who were less likely to suffer cognitive impairment had on average more education, were financially better off and had received better care for cardiovascular conditions such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

Heart health is linked to brain health in many ways. Better cardiovascular health may be the most important factor in the study findings. The researchers also pointed out that learning experiences early in life build up a cognitive reserve.

Researchers advise seniors to stay active with both physical and mental exercise, keeping mentally engaged and physically active.

“More and more studies suggest that walking and other types of physical activity are important for preventing cognitive and memory decline,” says co-author Eric Larson, M.D., M.P.H., executive director of the Group Health Center for Health Studies in Seattle, where he has led many studies of the relationship between physical activity and brain health.

“The evidence seems to be showing that staying mentally engaged with the world in any fashion — reading, talking with friends, going to church, going to movies — is also likely to help reduce your risk down the road,” says Langa.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Social Interaction Increases Cognitive Function

There's bad news for hermits. Restricting your social interaction could make you dumb.

Research done at the University of Michigan suggests that social interaction increases cognitive functioning and aids intellectual performance. They compared social interaction to exercise for the brain.

“Social interaction,” the authors suggest, “helps to exercise people’s minds. People reap cognitive benefits from socializing,” They speculate that social interaction “exercises” cognitive processes that are measured on intellectual tasks. “It is possible,” the authors conclude, “that as people engage socially and mentally with others, they receive relatively immediate cognitive boosts.”

Research published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin by SAGE