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Brain exercises delay, speed up dementia?
September 1st, 2010
04:15 PM ET

Brain exercises delay, speed up dementia?

A study of more than 1,100 participants aged 65 and older, none of whom had dementia when the research began, finds that people who regularly engage in mentally stimulating activities such as reading, doing puzzles, and going to museums  may stave off the onset of dementia longer than people who don't. This has been shown in several other studies in the past.

But here's the flip side: Those who are cognitively active also decline more rapidly when they do develop symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, the new study in the journal Neurology found.

That's not necessarily a bad thing, if you consider quality of life issues, researchers say.

"At the end of the day, you spend less of your lifespan in that demented state," says Robert Wilson, neuropsychologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Participants in this study were followed for an average of 12 years. After six years, they received a full diagnostic evaluation for dementia. Researchers continued to track their cognitive functioning over the follow six to nine years.

"We found that highly cognitively active individuals who had no cognitive impairment at the beginning of the study had declined less at the end," he said.

Keeping the mind active can help change the function and structure of the brain in such a way that when Alzheimer's-related damage develops, the brain can better adapt to those changes, Wilson said. But exactly how that works, scientists aren't sure.

Activities that counted toward being "cognitively active" included going to a museum, watching television, listening to radio, reading newspapers, reading magazines, reading books, and playing games. The researchers did not ask participants about whether they continued to be cognitively active after the initial assessment at the start of the study, Wilson said.

This is the first study to show a more rapid cognitive decline among people who engage in mentally stimulating activities such as reading, Wilson said.

It is also, however, an observational study and not a controlled experiment. That means researchers are drawing conclusions based on associations, but did not prove that cognitive activity caused any change at all.

The National Institutes of Health delivered the grim news in April that evidence on preventing the onset of Alzheimer's disease continues to be fuzzy, and that there is no lifestyle modification a person can make that is proved to help.

Still, a better understanding of dementia is leading to more effective therapies. And Wilson is hopeful.

"This kind of research suggests that a cognitively active lifestyle can affect the course of the disease and how much of your lifespan it eats up," he said.

Wilson recommends picking a mentally engaging, challenging activity that you enjoy, and doing it on a regular basis, he said. For example, reading every day or every other day could be a good hobby in this regard, he said.


soundoff (81 Responses)
  1. Cheryl

    A very enlightening article. My father passed away last year from Lewds body dementia at 72. Your article has inspired me to keep cognitively active. I am 49 and would like to survive longer than my father did.

    September 1, 2010 at 18:58 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Eileen Morrison

      It sounds like handicapping, i.e., analyzing the past performances of race horses, trainer stats, and other data in order to make educated bets on Thoroughbred horse races, fits the bill as a cognitive activity! I've never seen so many sharp senior citizens in your life! My advice, take up picking the horses, even if you don't wager anything!

      September 1, 2010 at 21:03 | Report abuse |
    • Stephanie

      My 84 year old father has Lewy Body Dementia. All dementia is tragic but it astounds me how few people have heard of LBD and how much less attention it receives than Alzheimer's. LBD is much more complicated. I am sorry for your loss.

      September 1, 2010 at 22:12 | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      I find specious an article that considers watching TV "cognitively active"

      September 2, 2010 at 08:06 | Report abuse |
    • bob in calif

      I would not recommend Judge Judy or Oprah as a cognitive activity but there are lots of PBS programs, (Nova, Great Performances, and Washington Week) that are very informative and entertaining.

      September 2, 2010 at 11:19 | Report abuse |
  2. rose

    I believe this is the case. My mother, still alive after 10 years with Alzheimer's, had a very slow progression during the first 6 years of the disease because of her engament in activities. When I saw her declining even more I bought her simple puzzles and coloring books which made her feel that she could do something on her own. Alzheimer's is a terrible disease for the person who suffers it when she realizes she is losing her mind and for the caregivers who see a parent dying slowly year after year.

    September 1, 2010 at 20:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • txmomma2

      May strength be yours as you continue with her care!

      September 1, 2010 at 21:11 | Report abuse |
  3. Don

    Interesting story... a good friend of mine is an amateur radio operator (he has been radio-active since the 1930's) and is currently 88. Well, one day I was tuning around the shortwave amateur bands and caught him sending and receiving at around 30-35 WPM (words per minute) using morse code.

    He was answering a large pileup (several hundred) of European and Asian amateur radio operators that were also responding to him in morse code since many of them knew him and he has a killer station. As an active radio op, he handled it quite well (no computer used for sending/receiving – all done in the head'). I listened to him handle this ongoing exchange for the next 45 minutes and he didn't miss a beat! My point is that he keeps his MIND active and uses it.

    September 1, 2010 at 20:12 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sue

      My grandfather (W1EES, operator for 75 years) passed away 2 years ago at age 91, but up until the day he had a stroke, he was doing the same thing. He was on the board of directors of the QCWA and still travelled on occasion. I was amazed that he could transmit and read the morse code at speeds so incredible, I was having trouble deciphering between the sounds. Maybe he would never have developed alzheimer's or dementia, but I firmly believe that the more active the mind is, the longer we can stave off this horribly crippling condition. My granmother on the other side has been living with alzheimer's for close to 15 years, and now has a memory span of less than a minute...on good days. Seeing the difference between the two really makes me hope for a cure. Bless all of you who are caring for someone with these disorders.

      September 2, 2010 at 08:33 | Report abuse |
  4. riz

    watching television???

    September 1, 2010 at 20:28 | Report abuse | Reply
    • evoc

      Whew! I'm good then.

      September 1, 2010 at 21:13 | Report abuse |
    • evoc

      There are wonderful shows on TV, e.g. Dexter, Nurse Jackie, Weeds, The Big C, House, even reruns of Boston Legal, as well as Discovery Science channel with documentaries on quantum physics, searching for the 'Singularity', the theory of everything.

      September 1, 2010 at 21:17 | Report abuse |
    • gcoop

      The researchers should have been more thorough here. Perhaps cognitive abilities only began to decline after participants saw an episode of Jersey Shore...

      September 2, 2010 at 12:14 | Report abuse |
  5. Jean

    I agree with Riz – how can watching TV keep your mind active? Reading & puzzles, yes. But TV?

    September 1, 2010 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • anon

      TV – NOVA, Ken Burns specials, many others. Not all TV is rotten.

      September 1, 2010 at 20:54 | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      It may be that not all TV shows are rotten – but it is still passive. Doing a puzzle, morse code, handicapping horses – some of the examples given here – are active mental tasks. One can watch a show on physics and be thinking about what a nice day it is...

      September 2, 2010 at 09:22 | Report abuse |
    • Robin Bray

      Ken Burns is not good TV.

      September 2, 2010 at 10:28 | Report abuse |
    • Lynn

      TV is NOT enough mental stimulation. I have no problem with someone watching TV in addition to doing other things, and I certainly agree that not all TV is 'bad' for you. Science shows and documentaries are interesting, but they are still not exactly mental exercise. From a 'mental exercise' perspective, I would rather see someone watching game shows and trying to think of the answers before the contestants... that's actually using your mind and memory. Reading is better than watching TV, and getting up off your duff and doing something that requires both thought and action is by far the BEST.

      September 2, 2010 at 11:27 | Report abuse |
  6. Crownnoble

    I tend to think of it this way. The mind is made up of chemicals. How one thinks makes those chemicals be and lay there differently from a different way of thinking. Good thinking, good chemicals vs. bad thinking, bad chemicals. An active mind creates active mind chemicals and an inactive mind creates inactive mind chemicals. Sort of like physical therapy.

    September 1, 2010 at 20:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Bree

      I'm willing to bet you have NO idea what you're talking about.

      Good chemicals? Bad chemicals? "Thinking" won't change the "chemical makeup of your mind"- for instance, I can't think good thoughts and magically THC will appear in my brain..

      September 1, 2010 at 21:51 | Report abuse |
    • Kermit

      I tend to agree... predisposition also plays into the percentages

      September 1, 2010 at 22:40 | Report abuse |
    • Kermit

      Bree ..the way you think does stimulate/change nerons/chemicals and wave patterns inside the mind

      September 1, 2010 at 22:42 | Report abuse |
    • Med student

      @ Bree: I'm willing to bet YOU have no idea what you're talking about.

      THC is not an endogenous chemical in the brain, and therefore it would be physically impossible to make it "magically appear", as you say. On the contrary, chemicals that exist naturally in our brain (endogenous chemicals), and the receptors that respond to them, for certain can be modulated, strengthened, and upregulated if they are consistently in use (eg by playing stimulating games); similarly, connections can be strengthened by the way we think. Crownnoble is correct.

      September 2, 2010 at 00:11 | Report abuse |
    • crzydoc

      @ Bree looks like it's you who are clueless
      "Thinking" won't change the "chemical makeup of your mind" Emotional stress (anger, fear) does elevate your stress hormones (example epinepherine) in the brain. On the other hand pleasant emotions can elevate other chemicals (example endorphins). in your brain. If you are chronically stuck in one or the other side of the spectrum of emotions you will find your brain showing elevated levels of the corresponding chemical. And by the way we do have a THC like chemical – endocannibinoid (also called Anandamide) that gets released in respsone to a whole range of stimuli. And so you propbably can think up THC

      September 2, 2010 at 09:02 | Report abuse |
    • Alex

      No, that's not science and not the way the brain works. I for example, have a problem with serotonin, a neurotransmitter. The result is depression. Sitting on the front stoop thinking positive thoughts can boost my mood for sure but it will not prevent depressive episodes or magically . I need to avoid things like excessive alcohol, caffeine, and drugs in lieu with my more personal struggle to beat depression. You cannot control "bad chemicals" with thought alone.

      September 2, 2010 at 09:46 | Report abuse |
    • rk

      I've wondered if it might be as simple as blood flow – scans show brain activity as increased blood flow in certain areas; could it be simply blood flowing that sweeps away the aberrant peptides that are associated with Alzheimer's?

      September 2, 2010 at 09:46 | Report abuse |
    • Manny Calavera

      "I do not know how to control "bad chemicals" with thought alone."

      There, I fixed that for you.

      September 2, 2010 at 10:16 | Report abuse |
  7. Mike

    @riz and Jean:
    I know this literature from my profession as Neuropsychologist: Yes, watching television counts. Hanging 8 hours on the couch is of course not considered cognitively stimulating but the following things that you can do with a TV are: following series, keeping informed of the news, watching games.

    September 1, 2010 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • bob in calif

      Other studies have shown that diet, exercise, a circle of friends and family to interact with, and cognitive activities have been shown to maintain quality of life (though not necessarily extend life) for many.

      September 2, 2010 at 11:28 | Report abuse |
  8. Jeremy

    Alzheimer's is a Prion disease, plain and simple.

    If you consume tainted meat or milk from an animal that has deformed prions, you'll get them too. We've known this for a long time with regards to Mad Cow Disease another prion disease, but it's only now becoming clear that Alzheimer's is also a prion disease. It's easy to tell if a cow has Mad Cow, since they can't even walk. But how on earth are we supposed to know if a cow as Alzheimer's? Give it a quiz?

    Well it turns out, as of a few weeks ago, as Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported ( http://ac360.blogs.cnn.com/2010/08/10/video-spinal-test-may-predict-alzheimers/ ), you can test for Alzheimer's via a spinal tap that detects certain proteins. I'd bet money that if we tested a few hundred cow's spinal fluid for the same proteins we'd discover a significant % of cows have Alzheimer's. Eat any brain or spinal tissue (and maybe milk) from those cows and you'll "catch" Alzheimer's yourself. Pretty simple actually. Now we just need to finish developing vaccines for prion diseases, before we all catch it.

    September 1, 2010 at 20:56 | Report abuse | Reply
    • kargo27

      Wow, that's some scary stuff! Prions are evil.

      September 1, 2010 at 21:25 | Report abuse |
    • Pissing Off the Reich Wing

      Oh please give me a break. Eating meat has nothing to do with the Alzheimers. There are NO links between the two. My father died from Alzheimers. In the home he was at there were numerous patiences who never touch meat, poultry, or fish products there whole life. Yet there they were in the same boat. PETA people get a life.
      I love all of Gods creatures right next to the mash potatoes.

      September 1, 2010 at 22:23 | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Hi, just a theory about your theory.....However very interesting it occurred to me that there are probably very few if no old and geriatric cows being slaughtered and fed to the masses. I suspect they are all youthful and in their prime. Just my opinion. If I am wrong however and I will look into it.....I will stop eating beef or pork, oh god old chickens....any meat for that matter.

      September 1, 2010 at 22:46 | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      First – This has nothing to do with PETA, and for the record, I'm very much a meat eater, I just want it to be as safe as possible. As for the geriatric cow thing. As I understand it, young animals (and humans) can have these prions far before they show signs of Alzheimers. Presumably if they have the deformed prions, it should be possible to spread the disease no matter their age.

      September 2, 2010 at 00:55 | Report abuse |
    • Give It A Rest

      I would love to see your research or literature citations that demonstrate that Alzheimer's disease is a prion disease. Lacking that, I would suggest refraining from posting alarmist material.

      September 2, 2010 at 05:57 | Report abuse |
    • Musician

      Prions? BS – I had grandparents born in 1890 who developed dementia in their 60s but it was before the term Alzheimer's were used.

      My Mom just passed away from Alzheimer's and there were many highly educated individuals in her facility – so much for any connection with education levels or keeping one's brain active. If they really already knew what caused it, it would be proven.

      September 2, 2010 at 07:24 | Report abuse |
    • crzydoc

      "Alzheimer's is a Prion disease, plain and simple"

      No It's not. You may be confusing it with bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) aka "mad cow disease" which is. Before you go off on your PETA spin get your facts straight
      There nothing plain and simple about Alzheimers. We barely know what causes it , we don't have a clue how to prevent or delay its onset and, as for cure, we are still searching.

      September 2, 2010 at 08:44 | Report abuse |
    • Dean

      SEATTLE—A series of compounds now being tested in animals and in vitro assays may offer a therapeutic approach for treating human prion diseases, Stanley Prusiner, MD, said at the 124th Annual Meeting of the American Neurological Association. Prions—proteinaceous infectious particles that lack nucleic acid—are most familiar as the pathogenic agents in Creutzfeld-Jakob disease in humans and scrapie in sheep. However, Dr. Prusiner suggested that they may also play a role in more common neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, and frontotemporal dementia. If the new compounds prove successful in treating Creutzfeld-Jakob disease and related conditions, they may provide a blueprint for intervention in these other diseases as well.

      September 2, 2010 at 09:33 | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      This post is a beautiful example of why a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. There are nuggets of truth in Jeremy's comment, but unfortunately, he has taken these nuggets and used them to weave a much larger (and inaccurate) story. For those of you who are interested, here is the reality:

      1. A wide variety of diseases, including Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and mad cow disease are associated with the formation of protein deposits (called amyloid). In each of these examples, the deposits are in the brain, although other similar diseases show deposits elsewhere. Collectively, these diseases are called amyloid diseases.

      2. A small subset of amyloid diseases are infectious. These are called prion diseases, and include mad cow (BSE) in cattle, CJD in human, and chronic wasting disease in deer and elk. Therefore, Dean's quote refers to the fact that diseases like Alzheimer's do share some common characteristics with prion diseases (specifically amyloid deposits), even if they differ in other ways (specifically infectivity).

      3. It is true that in recent years, the line between non-infectious amyloid diseases and prion diseases has blurred somewhat. For example, direct injection of brain extracts from Alzheimer's mice into healthy mice triggers Alzheimer's-like symptoms. Therefore, researchers in the field now sometimes say that all amyloid diseases are likely to some extent prion diseases, since they can be infectious by very artificial methods such as direct injection into the brain. However, extensive research has shown absolutely no evidence the eating Alzheimer's-infected material can cause Alzheimer's. The basic reason is that the brain is very good at keeping foreign stuff out. Prion diseases use a complicated mechanism to move from the gut to the brain; this mechanism does not work for other amyloids.

      So, in summary, it would probably be a bad idea to directly inject brain matter from Alzheimer's patients (or cows with Alzheimer's??) into your brain. However, there is no evidence that eating meat will give you Alzheimer's.

      Sincerely,
      A professor who has spent the last decade studying amyloid and prion diseases.

      September 2, 2010 at 11:33 | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      To the person who said that he had asked Alzheimer patients "there were numerous patiences(sic) who never touch meat, poultry, or fish products there(sic) whole life." Are you seriously suggesting that you were able to get Alzheimer patients to remember their eating habits 70-80 years ago. I seriously doubt you got accurate answers.

      Professor Doug – Thank you for the informative post. It is somewhat reassuring. Yes, I agree that I'm guilty of making a logic leap based on "enough information to be dangerous". However, sometimes it's those leaps between seemingly unrelated issues that can open the door to the truth.

      For example, there is a correlation in the increase in Alzheimer's and the industrialization of meat processing. (Where meat is processed very quickly and the chances of spinal and brain material entering the food supply goes up.) Yes I know correlation does not equal causation, but on the other hand there may very well be a connection. I for one would be very very nervous eating brain or spinal tissue from an animal that tested positive amyloid and tau proteins.

      What are your thoughts on the report that it appears possible to predict with near 100% accuracy that if you have those proteins in your spinal fluid, that you will come down Alzheimer's at some point in your life? This sounds like a pretty solid connection between prions and Alzheimer's to me.

      Again, I'll admit that I know very little about the processes it would take for a prion to enter the brain, but I do know that under some circumstances, like illnesses, or consuming excessive glutamic acids, like MSG, the blood brain barrier can be weakened. I certainly wouldn't want to test my body's ability to filter these EXTREMELY dangerous and hard to kill proteins.

      But, frighteningly, it would appear that society is already doing that very thing on a massive scale. I myself, though I continue to eat meat, have started to avoid hamburger and sausage as the chances of brain matter getting into them increase. Also, I'm thinking that buying more organic or locally grown and slaughtered meat is less likely to be contaminated. Your thoughts?

      It's also interesting that there is also a correlation that in cultures that eat little meat and no cows milk have a near zero rate of Alzheimer's.

      To me these all point to a dangerous connection between animal products and Alzheimer's.

      Professor, are you aware of any studies that have done spinal taps on cattle, to see if it's at all common for cows to have the Alzheimer precursor proteins? I think this would be an interesting thing to know.

      September 2, 2010 at 13:05 | Report abuse |
    • Doug

      Jeremy, the study you mention is fascinating, but it is important to note that the proteins identified in spinal fluid were not prion proteins. The two proteins/peptides that they found (beta-amyloid protein 1-42 and phosphorylated tau) have long been known to be associated with Alzheimer's. These proteins are found in large deposits (called plaques) in the brains of people with Alzheimer's. What made this study unique was the observation that their levels in spinal fluid could predict future outcomes.

      This sounds disconcerting, but there are a couple important notes. First, these are naturally occurring proteins; they are just at higher levels in patients with Alzheimer's. Therefore, while this is a marker for disease, that doesn't mean that ingesting the material would cause disease. Second, even if this material were infectious (which is highly unlikely, given that direct injection of beta-amyloid into brains of healthy mice has almost no effect), it is highly unlike that eating it would cause disease - again because of issues with transiting through the gut, getting to the brain, and crossing the blood-brain barrier.

      So, there currently is no evidence that Alzheimer's is a result of eating cattle with Alzheimer's. Now, as you point out, leaps of logic are often how great discoveries are made. However, there is a huge difference between saying, "I wonder whether Alzheimer's could be a prion disease based on...." versus "Alzheimer's is a Prion disease, plain and simple."

      Is it conceivable that there is a link between meat consumption and Alzheimer's? Yes – actually, a few studies have suggested that vegetarians have modestly lower rates of Alzheimer's. However, this is not an all or nothing effect, and correlation does not equal causation. Vegetarians in general live healthier lifestyles – people who are willing to give up meat are usually also willing to make other sacrifices to improve their health. Therefore, vegetarians have lower rates of many diseases, making it hard to pinpoint the basis for the effect.

      And the simplest explanation for the increase in Alzheimer's is that people are living longer. Most people would eventually get Alzheimer's if they lived long enough.

      As for studies of Alzheimer's in cattle, I am not aware of any such studies, but they may have been done.

      September 2, 2010 at 14:08 | Report abuse |
    • Jeremy

      Thank you again for answering many of my questions. You are correct, I was too bold in my conclusions in my original post. That being said, I'm still going to avoid hamburger and sausage until evidence is stronger that there isn't a connection. Good thing Fuddrucker's has non-beef hamburgers for when I get a hankering.

      September 2, 2010 at 14:26 | Report abuse |
  9. Rebecca

    It would be interesting to know other factors, such has how many in the study had mercury containing flu shots? Had reduced fat intake (which may deprive the brain of essential fats)? Were taking prescribed statin drugs? So many possible variables here.

    September 1, 2010 at 21:13 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Gary

      Not an expert but recent studies in of Japanese Hawaiians suggest there is some impact from environment on the development of the disease but no difference in the rates of pathogenesis of vascular dementia.

      September 2, 2010 at 09:56 | Report abuse |
  10. grammi

    I vote to play Mah Jongg (not the fake Mah on the computer). It is a very, very challenging game and keeps your mind very active. I play in 3 groups a week and we are 55 – 86 years of age....

    September 1, 2010 at 21:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. kargo27

    There is actually somewhat of a cure for Alzheimer's but it's expensive. It made the news a few years ago but at a cost of nearly $50k per year out of pocket, who can afford it? http://www.nrimed.com/

    September 1, 2010 at 21:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Andacar

    Man, we just can't win. If we don't think too much pour brain turns to mush. If we do, it turns to mush faster when it turns to mush. Sigh.

    September 1, 2010 at 21:36 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Sam

      Actually it sounds ideal. If your mind is active. You remain mentally alert for many more years than if you didn't. Then, when you do get the dreaded senility or alzheimers you go into oblivion and deteriorate much more quickly. I can't imagine wanting to stay that way for a long time. Get it over as quickly as possible, don't you agree. It could be 90 or so before any onset of mind disease.

      September 1, 2010 at 22:53 | Report abuse |
  13. RabiaDiluvio

    So it's official–no matter what you do, you're f*d. XD

    September 1, 2010 at 21:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. John Galt

    Is the title misleading? The person who is less mentally active only "loses less" because they were not using that greater capacity so the loss was not noticed. I'm too lazy to read the study and you can never trust journalists to understand anything.

    September 1, 2010 at 22:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Anonymous

    What a freakin' depressing waste of space! When you're a kid, it's ADD or autism, when you're an adult, it's cancer or dementia. Oh gosh, what will I die of? I'm just jones-ing to find out.....NOT. I'm sick of this stupid website, give me some uplifting "news" for once, you all.

    September 1, 2010 at 22:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • h

      You should try happynews dot com. Not joking!

      September 2, 2010 at 04:45 | Report abuse |
  16. Brenda Reed

    I am 66 years old, and all these theories are very frightening to me, of course. However, I am extremely intelligent, and I take advantage of all the mental/physical challenges. Will they matter? Ask my children next year. Or the next year. My point is, that is extremely frightening to be in the targeted age range, know that you are a likely person to be affected.

    September 1, 2010 at 23:35 | Report abuse | Reply
    • magevelia

      Please don't live in fear, or think about this sort of thing too much. Live well - eat well, play, work, whatever. Lead what feels to you like a balanced life, and what comes will come, pure and simple. No need to hasten your own deterioration with added stress or worry ;). Let your family do that for you.

      September 2, 2010 at 02:16 | Report abuse |
  17. Kingofthenet

    "At the end of the day, you spend less of your lifespan in that demented state,"

    Oh Joy, but I prefer Hemingway's 'solution' to dementia

    September 2, 2010 at 00:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Anonymous

    I like turtles.

    September 2, 2010 at 00:34 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Anonymouse

      are you a zombie?

      September 2, 2010 at 02:15 | Report abuse |
  19. Jake

    Studies have concluded that studies are bad for your health

    September 2, 2010 at 00:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. ngn

    "Those who are cognitively active also decline more rapidly when they do develop symptoms of Alzheimer's disease...that's not necessarily a bad thing, if you consider quality of life issues, researchers say."

    Yes, it IS necessarily a bad thing. How many people want to die in the prime of their lives? Whoever says "I want to die next Thursday"? Nobody! We need to CURE Alzheimer's, not distract ourselves with this rationalization crap.

    September 2, 2010 at 01:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Get real

    We all look at the symptoms not so much the cause. Could it be the environment that is causing this in the first place? An ocean full of chemicals and plastic? Air tainted. The food is genetically altered, processed sugar in just about everything. Naw couldn’t be that. By the time we get to these ages more than the mind will be failing. Some legacy we go going to leave to the next generation.

    September 2, 2010 at 07:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Ernie Cohen

    The headline is idiotic. Given that everyone has to eventually decline to the same mental state (i.e. death), it is a mathematical fact that any path that starts out with a lesser rate of decline has to have a greater rate of decline later to catch up. Of course the study might be interesting and legitimate, but the way this is written is just silly.

    September 2, 2010 at 07:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. AJ

    "The researchers did not ask participants about whether they continued to be cognitively active after the initial assessment at the start of the study, Wilson said" – and this passed as a "scientific" study???

    September 2, 2010 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Stans Friend

    Hey guys, will you visit SAVESTAN . ORG a friend of mine with 4 young children is fighting for his life

    September 2, 2010 at 09:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Geoz

    This looks like a weak study. These are associations... not causes.
    Just like tall sisters are associated with tall brothers, but tall sisters don't CAUSE tall brothers.

    September 2, 2010 at 09:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Susan Krauss Whitbourne

    It's important to read the whole article and not the headlines on this story. Mental exercise doesn't cause a more rapid acceleration of Alzheimer's disease. This could be translated into some very bad advice. For more on recent controversies about Alzheimer's, please check my Psych Today blog posting: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/fulfillment-any-age/201008/medicalization-the-mind
    I think you will find this helpful.

    September 2, 2010 at 09:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. branson

    Watching television is considered "cognitively active"? Methinks the study is flawed!

    September 2, 2010 at 09:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Dr T

    It comes down to three basic words...genetics,genetics,genetics.
    If grandma,grandpa,or mom and dad had it,there is greatly likelihood that
    you may one day get it as well.Do what you can to keep it from happening:stop smoking,lose weight,exercise(your body AND your mind),cut back on alcohol,don't do illicit drugs.simple,but effective.....

    September 2, 2010 at 10:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Jeff Roe

    Why would they call watching television a "cognitively active" activity? Your brain basically stops working when you are watching TV. This is a passive mental state.

    "Beta waves are produced when one is thinking and using one’s higher faculties and Delta is associated with sleep and/or deep trance like states. The radiant light and flicker rates of TV cause the brain to drop down to a level of activity somewhere between Alpha and Theta – essentially a sleepy dreamlike state of mind where the higher critical functions are turned off. Even if you’re reading text on a television screen the brain registers low levels of Alpha wave activity. Theta brainwaves engage inner and intuitive subconscious. You will find theta in places where you hold memories, sensations and emotions Any information therefore imbibed from the TV by-passes our logical, critically thinking sieve and goes straight into those sub areas of the mind associated with more emotive response."

    ...from http://www.infowars.com/tv-is-a-psycho-social-weapon/

    September 2, 2010 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Adetutu

    Mental exercise like reading does not increase the decline. It is if you stop that you have a problem because you are no longer using those cells and the biochemicals responsible for the activity is no longer being produced. The reduction will affect other biochemicals because activity develops chained connections and when those connections are lost other interconnected ones have a problem. It is like trying to delete or remove ERP software from your computer system. You will need to buy another computer because it will damage other software it became connected with. That is why we call the body the human computer, it is a coded script and its working depends on the scripted process for uploading certain processes. There are some process that if uploaded must not be deleted. Hence if you have never been educated you will find that stopping to read the few things you did will not create a sharp decline but if you are highly educated and have consequently upgraded certain processes that cannot be safely deleted, trying to deleted them will create havoc.
    For more information or clarification please read – “computer related health conditions: understanding the human computer” available at amazon.com in print and kindle versions to get a good understanding about how the human machine operates. Thank you and best regards

    September 2, 2010 at 10:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Pat

    Life is a daily challenge with infrequent reward. As one gets older, if cancer, heart attack or stroke doesn't get you, Alzheimer's or something of the like will. WTF are we all doing here anyway if life is such a struggle only for us to die of something horrible, and possibly, drawn out and horrible?

    September 2, 2010 at 10:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Susie

    There's no doubt that genetics play a large role in cognitive function and subsequent decline later in life. But diet plays a huge role too. Our brain and entire nervous systems NEED healthy fats. Get omega-3s into your system by eating salmon and taking supplements. There are even children omega-3 supplements or you can just give them snacks like walnuts or Gudernoobs.

    September 2, 2010 at 10:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. bob

    readtis

    September 2, 2010 at 11:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Lynn

    TV is NOT enough mental stimulation. I have no problem with someone watching TV in addition to doing other things, and I certainly agree that not all TV is 'bad' for you. Science shows and documentaries are interesting, but they are still not exactly mental exercise. From a 'mental exercise' perspective, I would rather see someone watching game shows and trying to think of the answers before the contestants... that's actually using your mind and memory. Reading is better than watching TV, and getting up off your duff and doing something that requires both thought and action is by far the BEST.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:28 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Tish

    Interesting article. Especially since it meshes with what we've seen in family. My grandmother and all of her siblings developed dementia, and since they were otherwise a very healthy family, most actually died from it–literally forgetting how to breathe. We never got an official diagnosis for any of them, but it is believed to be a form of Alzheimer's.
    The interesting thing is this: most of the siblings started showing signs in their 60s, with a very slow progression over 20 years. (My youngest cousing never even knew Grandma before dementia started changing her, even though Grandma was in her life through high school.)
    Grandma and most of her siblings also lived fairly sedentary lives in their later years, living alone orout in the country, with little contact and mental activity. THe contrast was my grandmother's older brother. Even after he retired from the ministry, he and his wife continued to actively use his skills to become leaders within their retirement community, planning activities, continuing ministry duties, taking enrichment classes, and generally keeping a very nimbl, active mind.
    When the dementia finally started showing signs, in his 80s, it was a rapid descent – we lost him in less than 2 years instead of the 20+ years we watched his sisters fall. Having watched them all, I would certainly rather go the rapid-decline route.

    September 2, 2010 at 11:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Demented

    I like pancakes.

    September 2, 2010 at 12:25 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. 11c Infantry

    In less than 20 years all the retirement homes will be all about video games and virtual reality and what not =) Pew! Pew! Pew! Take that you {insert recently invaded country name here} bastard! =)

    September 2, 2010 at 15:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. alan

    You had a typo in one of your lines it was written this way => 'Researchers continued to track their cognitive functioning over the follow six to nine years', but should have been written 'Researchers continued to track their cognitive functioning over the following six to nine years' - For Your Information only

    September 2, 2010 at 15:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Ann

    Brain tumors have increased since Aspartame (NutraSweet/Equal) came on the market. The "60 Minutes" television program in December of l996 pointed out that the alarming rise in brain tumors in the United States was in direct proportion to the rise in the use of aspartame in the United States since aspartame was allowed to be introduced into foods and beverages by the FDA around l981.

    September 5, 2010 at 00:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Rayhan

    We moeten meer bewust worden van de emotionele aksamadera. Ze realiseren zich niet dat ze zijn onze troeven. Er moet voor die we hebben. We sacetanatai kunnen hun leven meer anandamukhara

    January 13, 2013 at 06:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Rayhan

    We moeten meer bewust worden van de emotionele aksamadera. Ze realiseren zich niet dat ze zijn onze troeven. Er moet voor die we hebben. We sacetanatai kunnen hun leven meer anandamukhara
    http://www.inspiratiedagzorg.blogspot.com

    January 13, 2013 at 06:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Millard

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    brainsciencewithjonathan.wordpress.com

    May 6, 2014 at 17:04 | Report abuse | Reply

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.