Mental stimulation reduces risk of Alzheimer’s
2 July 2007
A five-year study of older people has found that the amount
of mental stimulation affects the incidence of Alzheimer’s disease. How
often old people read a newspaper, play chess, or engage in other mentally
stimulating activities is related to risk of developing the disease.
study, which was part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project, a longitudinal
study of more than 1,200 older people, was published in the online edition
of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology on 27
In the study, more than 700 people in Chicago, USA, with an
average age of 80 underwent yearly cognitive testing for up to five years.
Participants were. 90 of the participants developed Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers also performed a brain autopsy on the 102 participants who died.
A cognitively active person in old age was 2.6 times less likely to develop
dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than a cognitively inactive person in old
age. This association remained after controlling for past cognitive
activity, lifetime socioeconomic status, and current social and physical
“Alzheimer’s disease is among the most feared consequences of
old age,” said study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, with the Rush Alzheimer’s
Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. “The enormous
public health problems posed by the disease are expected to increase during
the coming decades as the proportion of old people in the United States
increases. This underscores the urgent need for strategies to prevent the
disease or delay its onset.”
Wilson says the study also found frequent
cognitive activity during old age, such as visiting a library or attending a
play, was associated with reduced risk of mild cognitive impairment, a
transitional stage between normal aging and dementia, and less rapid decline
in cognitive function.
So Nintendo may be on the right track with its
mental agility video games aimed at at older people.
Each year that dementia is delayed will lead to significant savings for
national healthcare budgets — see
Growing Alzheimer’s epidemic could cripple
MTB Europe would like to hear from anyone involved
in developing electronic games/applications/devices for,
or studying their use by, the elderly (ie for their pleasure
or to aid social interaction).
Please contact the Editor!