“Use it or lose it” is a catch-cry that applies to the brain as well as the body.
…Our research suggests that there could be a number of different pathways in the brain by which an active cognitive lifestyle leads to reduced dementia risk.
In men, a degree of protection against microscopic vascular disease in the brain is implicated. In both men and women, there’s evidence of neuroplastic changes in the frontal lobe – greater mental activity over time seems to be associated with either growing more brain cells, or losing fewer cells, and perhaps with more connections between brain cells. Together these kinds of changes translate to an increase in brain volume in this very particular part of the brain.
Like any good research, this study stimulates many more questions about the links between cognitive lifestyle, the brain, and dementia that will need further investigation. But it does emphasise the potentially powerful effects that mental habits have on brain structure and function.
In the context of an ageing society with truly alarming dementia predictions over the next decades, our research adds yet more hard evidence to the idea we should be promoting and providing opportunities for challenging, rich and engaging cognitive lifestyle activities for our older citizens as a way of maintaining optimum brain health and minimising dementia risk.