Starting a new activity is good for the brain!

According to Dr Denise Park, engaging in new and mentally stimulating activities has a significant impact on the brain functions in those aged over 60. This is what this neuroscience researcher’s team from the University of Texas in Dallas concluded after carrying out a study that was published in the Psychological Science journal. This study is a part of a wider project – the Synapse project – the aim of which is to test the influence of various conditions on cognitive health in people aged between 60 and 90 years of age.

Several groups of participants were set up for the purposes of the study. The first three groups engaged in activities that were demanding of the brain’s cognitive powers. They learned digital photography which calls upon the memory (through verbal instructions), and reasoning in order to use the equipment and the associated software. They also learned computer-assisted sewing, which calls upon the brain's imaging abilities (for the creation of designs) and reasoning abilities (for the use of the machine). Two additional groups carried out tasks that didn’t call greatly on the brain’s resources, such as games, museum visits, listening to music, both in a group or alone.

Only the first three groups experienced a significant increase in their working memory. Contrary to what they expected, the researchers did not find an improvement in brain function in subjects taking part in group activities. They concluded that simply going out and doing something is not enough; the important thing is to do something unusual and mentally stimulating.
Source: Park D. et al. (2013). The Impact of Sustained Engagement on Cognitive Function in Older Adults - The Synapse Project. Psychological Science, November 8, 2013, doi: 10.1177/0956797613499592

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