By Dr. Mercola
There’s good news for bookworms… or really anyone who enjoys reading, writing and other ‘intellectual pursuits,’ especially if you’ve been doing such activities since you were a kid.
Researchers revealed that engaging in cognitively stimulating activities both early and late in life is associated with slower late-life cognitive decline.1
Stimulating Your Brain Throughout Life Provides Protection Later On
The research suggests that the sooner you start challenging your mind, the better, as those with more frequent cognitive activity over their lifespan fared the best, cognitively, in their later years. Researchers wrote:
“More frequent cognitive activity across the life span has an association with slower late-life cognitive decline that is independent of common neuropathologic conditions, consistent with the cognitive reserve hypothesis.”
The cognitive reserve hypothesis suggests that people with greater cognitive abilities (education, knowledge, etc.) have better cognitive function later in life, and may even be able to delay some symptoms of dementia despite physical changes in the brain that would typically be related to such symptoms in others.
The latest study supports this hypothesis, as have many before it. One such study showed, for example, that mice with the rodent equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease given high levels of cognitive activity throughout their lives were protected against memory impairment.2 The researchers noted:
“ … our data suggest that humans who emphasize a high lifelong level of cognitive activity (over and above social and physical activities) will attain the maximal environmental protection against AD [Alzheimer’s disease].”
Your Brain: Use It or Lose It
Research into brain plasticity has proven that your brain continues to make new neurons throughout life in response to mental activity, which means that cognitive function can be improved, regardless of your age, and cognitive decline can be reversed.
However, if you don’t sufficiently challenge your brain with new, surprising information, it eventually begins to deteriorate. In my interview with Dr. Michael Merzenich, professor emeritus at the University of California, who has pioneered research in brain plasticity (also