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Keep Your Brain Sharp

Friday, March 04, 2016

Stimulating, everyday activities keep your brain sharp. Growing research suggests that activities that absorb and stimulate your mind may help slow or even prevent the development of mental decline.

A recent study by Mayo researchers found that ordinary yet intellectually stimulating activities such as using a computer, playing games, reading books and engaging in crafts-----including knitting, quilting and other types of handiwork-----were associated with a 30 to 50 percent decrease in the chances of developing mild cognitive impairment.

Why these activities might help prevent or delay cognitive decline isn't clear. One theory is that mentally stimulating activities help keep the connections between brain nerves intact and even create new ones. Another theory is that these activities may help reduce stress, perhaps carrying benefits similar to those of meditation or mindfulness training.

These activities are similar to meditative techniques that stress the idea of becoming fully aware of the here and now, often by focusing on a repetitive activity such as deep breathing. Such techniques produce a relaxation response, sort of the opposite of the body's stress fight-or-flight response.

The idea that purposeful activities can slow cognitive decline needs to be confirmed in larger, longer term studies. In the meantime, though, Mayo doctors say that these kinds of activities are worth pursuing, as they do no harm and may offer substantial benefits.
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