You have likely heard the advice that keeping your brain active can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease. A study by researchers at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center finds that playing games, going to museums and doing other mentally stimulating activities can delay the symptoms of Alzheimer’s. However, if dementia does develop, it progresses more rapidly in those who had previously maintained a healthy active lifestyle.
Neuropsychologist and lead author Robert Wilson, PhD, theorizes that mentally stimulating activities may somehow enhance the brain’s ability to function relatively normally despite the buildup of lesions in the brain associated with dementia, but the benefit of mental activities can no longer compensate after the pathologic burden exceeds some threshold.
“So we think by the time that cognitively active people begin to show symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, they actually have more pathology in their brains than do affected people who were less cognitively active. As a result, they decline faster. That is, the benefit of delaying the initial appearance of symptoms comes at the cost of more rapid dementia progression,” Wilson said.
The study is published in the September 1, 2010, online issue of Neurology.
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