Spectacular article by Dr. Denise Park in this month’s Cerebrum:
Working Later in Life May Facilitate Neural Health
- “Carmi Schooler at the National Institutes of Health, using a technique that allowed him to assess causal relationships, found that adults who performed intellectually challenging jobs across their life span showed more cognitive flexibility in late adulthood than those who performed less demanding jobs.”
— “Perhaps the most compelling evidence regarding the impact of novel experiences on brain volume and function comes from a study at the Max Planck Institute in Germany. Adults with a mean age of 59 spent three months learning to juggle three balls. Although only about half the participants were able to achieve competence in this complex skill, those who succeeded had increased volume in a mediotemporal area of the visual cortex as well as the nucleus accumbens and the hippocampus, suggesting that sustained novel experience can increase the sizes of neural structures. Notably, the changes in the nucleus accumbens and hippocampus were transient, disappearing three months after the juggling ceased. This intriguing study provides clear evidence that continued skill performance is necessary to maintain some gains from experience, and it strongly supports the Ã¢â‚¬Å“use it or lose itÃ¢â‚¬Â adage.”
- “One of the premier challenges of the 21st century lies in determining what behaviors will protect neural health and then developing public health initiatives to encourage these behaviors in our communities. Sound social policies that encourage older people to keep working will have direct benefits to our economic system. It also could be neuroprotective, resulting in later onset of dementing illnesses, an outcome that offers gains for society thanks to reduced caregiving and health care costs, as well as extended time with beloved family members.”
Full article: Working Later in Life May Facilitate Neural Health
- The Future of the Aging Society: Burden or Human Capital?
- Build Your Cognitive Reserve: Interview with with Yaakov Stern
In this day and age, with pensions gone, and 401K’s 40–50% down from their highs, working late in life is a must now for many — including those in technically demanding professions. So perhaps it can turn out to our benefit with respect to keeping our brains fit? Thanks for the informative post!