How often do you read the newspaper? Write an email or a letter? What about reading books or playing games that take some brainpower? A new study suggests that the more you enjoyed doing all of those things from about age six to age 40, the lower your chances of forming the beta-amyloid plaques believed to underlie Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers at the University of California at Berkeley used brain imaging to compare cognitively normal seniors (mean age 76) with 10 Alzheimer’s patients (mean age just shy of 75). Their investigation showed that seniors who were most cognitively active had amyloid levels comparable to those of college age controls while the brains of cognitively normal adults who didn’t get much of a mental workout in their younger years looked like they had Alzheimer’s.
The study also revealed that the seniors who were most active mentally were also active physically, expending more athletic energy than those whose mental activity ranked in the middle or lower levels. The researchers theorized that high levels of mental activity and stimulation may have made neural processing more efficient in these individuals, thus preventing secretion and deposit of beta-amyloid.