Participating in social functions helps elders prevent cognitive decline

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According to findings reported in the December issue of Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences, participating in social functions helps older women to delay or reverse declining brain function. In this study, participants who tutored children as part of a volunteer service program saw significant increases in function after six months in the regions of the brain important to cognitive function, including the left ventral prefrontal cortex (P<0.01), the anterior cingulate cortex (P<0.003), and the left dorsal prefrontal cortex (P<0.04). According to Michelle C. Carlson, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and colleagues, “This finding is best captured by a personal observation from one of the volunteers, who stated that ‘it [volunteering] removed the cobwebs from my brain.'” “Individuals exhibited use-dependent neural plasticity by exercising and reactivating skills that may have been relatively unused for years or even decade,” they further explained. With average life expectancy increasing and the number of United States citizens with Alzheimer’s expected to quadruple over the next 50 years, authorities on Alzheimer’s disease have called for efforts that increase research and encourage both physical and mental engagement to lessen the likelihood of decreased cognitive function. Click here to read an article from Daily Breeze that discusses this study more.

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