Work (and Juggle) for Cognitive Health

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 “use it or lose it” 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

Relat­ed articles:

- The Future of the Aging Soci­ety: Bur­den or Human Capital?

- Build Your Cog­ni­tive Reserve: Inter­view with with Yaakov Stern


  1. GaryD on December 8, 2008 at 11:42

    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!

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SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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