An interesting “brain” fact

I’m still making my way through the book The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science by Norman Doidge, M.D.

Here’s a portion I read today that I find both hopeful (as an older middle-aged person) and amazing:

We now know that exercise and mental activity in animals generate and sustain more brain cells, and we have many studies confirming that humans who lead mentally active lives have better brain function. The more education we have, the more socially and physically active we are, and the more we participate in mentally stimulating activities, the less likely we are to get Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.

Not all activities are equal in this regard. Those that involve genuine concentration – studying a musical instrument, playing board games, reading, and dancing – are associated with a lower risk for dementia. Dancing, which requires learning new moves, is both physically and mentally challenging and requires much concentration. Less intense activities, such as bowling, babysitting, and golfing, are not associated with a reduced incidence of Alzheimer’s.

These studies are suggestive but stop short of proving that we can prevent Alzheimer’s disease with brain exercises. These activities are associated with or correlated with less Alzheimer’s, but correlations don’t prove causality. It is possible that people with very early onset but undetectable Alzheimer’s begin slowing down early in life and so stop being active. The most we can say about the relationship between brain exercises and Alzheimer’s at the moment is that it seems very promising. – pages 254, 255

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