Health Discoveries in General Health News

Social activities may reduce cognitive loss in elderly

April 29, 2011
Researchers at Rush University Medical Center found that frequent social activity can delay, and sometimes prevent, cognitive impairment in the elderly.

Published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society, the neuroscience study included more than 1,100 adults with an average age of 80 who are participants in the Rush Memory and Aging Project.

Participants were questioned about their range of social activities in the previous year and assessed for memory, perceptual speed and visuospatial ability. Over the course of five years, those who remained socially active experienced less cognitive decline. Those who were most active showed only one quarter of the decline shown in those who were least active.

"If memory and thinking capabilities fail, socializing becomes difficult," said Bryan James, a postdoctoral fellow at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center. "But our findings suggest that social inactivity itself leads to cognitive impairments. Social activity [may] challenge older adults to participate in complex interpersonal exchanges, which could promote or main efficient neural networks in a case of 'use it or lose it.'"

Researchers at the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, the research arm of North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System, are using DNA from older patients with neurological diseases to understand the connection of mental abilities and genetic variations.
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