Maintain your brain: The secrets to aging success

April 27, 2012, Cell Press

Aging may seem unavoidable, but that's not necessarily so when it comes to the brain. So say researchers in the April 27th issue of the Cell Press journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences explaining that it is what you do in old age that matters more when it comes to maintaining a youthful brain not what you did earlier in life.

"Although some do tend to decline as we get older, several elderly show well preserved functioning and this is related to a well-preserved, youth-like ," says Lars Nyberg of Umeå University in Sweden.

Education won't save your brain -- PhDs are as likely as high-school dropouts to experience memory loss with old age, the researchers say. Don't count on your job either. Those with a complex or demanding career may enjoy a limited advantage, but those benefits quickly dwindle after retirement.

Engagement is the secret to success. Those who are socially, mentally and physically stimulated reliably show better cognitive performance with a brain that appears younger than its years.

"There is quite solid evidence that staying physically and mentally active is a way towards brain maintenance," Nyberg says.

The researchers say this new take on successful aging represents an important shift in focus for the field. Much attention in the past has gone instead to understanding ways in which the brain copes with or compensates for cognitive decline in aging. The research team now argues for the importance of avoiding those age-related brain changes in the first place. Genes play some role, but life choices and other environmental factors, especially in old age, are critical.

Elderly people generally do have more trouble remembering meetings or names, Nyberg says. But those memory losses often happen later than many often think, after the of 60. Older people also continue to accumulate knowledge and to use what they know effectively, often to very old ages.

"Taken together, a wide range of findings provides converging evidence for marked heterogeneity in brain aging," the scientists write. "Critically, some older adults show little or no brain changes relative to younger adults, along with intact cognitive performance, which supports the notion of brain maintenance. In other words, maintaining a youthful brain, rather than responding to and compensating for changes, may be the key to successful memory aging."

Explore further: Some memory complaints in the elderly may be warning signs of cognitive problems

More information: Nyberg et al.: "Memory aging and brain maintenance." dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.tics.2012.04.005

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6 comments

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Sonhouse
not rated yet Apr 27, 2012
So to sum up, use it or lose it.
MCPtz
not rated yet Apr 27, 2012
Exercise!
HealingMindN
not rated yet Apr 27, 2012
I believe the article the article is suggesting regular social interaction in a learning environment like an adult dance or language class. But I'm just guessing.
Argiod
1 / 5 (1) Apr 27, 2012
I agree. I just turned 65 and have not noticed any loss of memory or degradation of cognitive functions. I still take on new studies, usually in the field of science, but also spiritual subjects and comparative religion. I am still fairly healthy and independent. I am constantly upgrading my computer, and play a variety of computer games, including one online MMORPG. I design and build most of my own furniture, do my own gardening and landscaping, and am in the process of renovating my apartment, starting with the installation of a tongue and groove solid bamboo flooring in the bathroom. I have written two sci-fi/fantasy stories, a handful of poems, and can cook, sew, and crochet. I have been called a 'high functioning autistic', and the standard diagnostic test bears that out. At 65 yo I still get a kick out of life. As long as I enjoy this day, I'll live forever... or, at least, it will seem that way to me.
Sonhouse
not rated yet Apr 28, 2012
Argiod: I am 70, play chess on a site called Red Hot Pawn under the handle of Sonhouse, I write music, have some of my compositions on myspace, have a facebook page also. I am coming up with a nice plot for a science fiction story and would love to read your two stories. Available? I go to this site almost every day, love astronomy, look at Astronomy Picture of the day every day, played music in three bands, including three years in Israel, two years working in Thailand, two years working on Andros Island at AUTEC, was an Apollo tech (Apollo tracking and timing)not that that means anything now:) Played music with my band Southwind for Governer Brown at a huge political convention, thousands of people there, got some national TV coverage with our band. Been a great life, I have seen things not many have!
Manhar
1 / 5 (1) May 19, 2012
Brain is more complex than any organ in our body. My experience indicates that it is more like CPU and memory chips combined together. Thoughts induced by consciousness are continuously processed by brain, even when we are sleeping. Brain does not get rest. Thought process generates emotions which affects the function of our body and exert forces, resulting in fatigue, frustration and enjoyment also. Good night sleep without nightmares freshen the brain. Same process of thoughtlessness can be achieved by meditation technique. Give enough rest (stop thought process completely) to brain and it will function better in old age. Of course, deterioration of body and brain may continue and we may lose some recent and some old memories but lifelong trained brain will function as normal as possible.

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