Does being a bookworm boost your brainpower in old age?

New research suggests that reading books, writing and participating in brain-stimulating activities at any age may preserve memory. The study is published in the July 3, 2013, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

"Our study suggests that exercising your brain by taking part in activities such as these across a person's lifetime, from childhood through old age, is important for in old age," said study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

For the study, 294 people were given tests that measured memory and thinking every year for about six years before their deaths at an average age of 89. They also answered a questionnaire about whether they read books, wrote and participated in other mentally stimulating activities during childhood, adolescence, and at their current age.

After they died, their brains were examined at autopsy for evidence of the physical signs of dementia, such as lesions, and tangles.

The research found that people who participated in mentally stimulating activities both early and late in life had a slower rate of decline in memory compared to those who did not participate in such activities across their lifetime, after adjusting for differing levels of plaques and tangles in the brain. Mental activity accounted for nearly 15 percent of the difference in decline beyond what is explained by plaques and tangles in the brain.

"Based on this, we shouldn't underestimate the effects of , such as reading and writing, on our children, ourselves and our parents or grandparents," said Wilson.

The study found that the rate of decline was reduced by 32 percent in people with frequent mental activity in late life, compared to people with average mental activity, while the rate of decline of those with infrequent activity was 48 percent faster than those with average activity.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Studies: Memory declines faster in years closest to death

Apr 04, 2012

Two new studies published in the April 4 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, suggest that a person's memory declines at a faster rate in the last two-and-a-half years of lif ...

Recommended for you

Why your favourite song takes you down memory lane

Aug 28, 2014

Music triggers different functions of the brain, which helps explain why listening to a song you like might be enjoyable but a favourite song may plunge you into nostalgia, scientists said on Thursday.

Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation of brain boosts memory

Aug 28, 2014

Stimulating a particular region in the brain via non-invasive delivery of electrical current using magnetic pulses, called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, improves memory, reports a new Northwestern Medicine ...

User comments

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

PeterD
1 / 5 (2) Jul 05, 2013
Use it or loose it!