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Busy schedules linked to better memory and cognition among middle-aged and older adults



Being Super Busy May* Be Good For Your Brain (Smith­son­ian Mag­a­zine):

There hasn’t been much sci­en­tif­ic research on busy­ness itself, although it’s some­thing that we talk about so often,” explains Sara Fes­ti­ni, a cog­ni­tive neu­ro­sci­en­tist at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Texas at Dal­las Cen­ter for Vital Longevi­ty, a co-author of the new research pub­lished this week in Fron­tiers in Aging Neu­ro­science. “So we want­ed to look at the rela­tion­ship of a gen­er­al­ly very busy lifestyle to cog­ni­tion.”

Fes­ti­ni and col­leagues found that mid­dle-aged and old­er Amer­i­cans who keep them­selves busy test bet­ter across a whole range of dif­fer­ent cog­ni­tive func­tions like brain pro­cess­ing speeds, rea­son­ing and vocab­u­lary.  The mem­o­ry of spe­cif­ic events from the past, or episod­ic mem­o­ry, is espe­cial­ly enhanced among busy peo­ple, they report…

But the strong cor­re­la­tion shown between busy­ness and brain func­tion also rais­es an intrigu­ing chick­en-and-egg ques­tion: Does busy­ness boost the brain, or might peo­ple with bet­ter cog­ni­tive pow­ers be more like­ly to keep them­selves busy?

StudyThe Busier the Bet­ter: Greater Busy­ness Is Asso­ci­at­ed with Bet­ter Cog­ni­tion (Fron­tiers in Aging Neu­ro­science)

  • Abstract: Sus­tained engage­ment in men­tal­ly chal­leng­ing activ­i­ties has been shown to improve mem­o­ry in old­er adults. We hypoth­e­sized that a busy sched­ule would be a proxy for an engaged lifestyle and would facil­i­tate cog­ni­tion. Here, we exam­ined the rela­tion­ship between busy­ness and cog­ni­tion in adults aged 50–89. Par­tic­i­pants (N = 330) from the Dal­las Lifes­pan Brain Study (DLBS) com­plet­ed a cog­ni­tive bat­tery and the Mar­tin and Park Envi­ron­men­tal Demands Ques­tion­naire (MPED), an assess­ment of busy­ness. Results revealed that greater busy­ness was asso­ci­at­ed with bet­ter pro­cess­ing speed, work­ing mem­o­ry, episod­ic mem­o­ry, rea­son­ing, and crys­tal­lized knowl­edge. Hier­ar­chi­cal regres­sions also showed that, after con­trol­ling for age and edu­ca­tion, busy­ness account­ed for sig­nif­i­cant addi­tion­al vari­ance in all cog­ni­tive constructs—especially episod­ic mem­o­ry. Final­ly, an inter­ac­tion between age and busy­ness was not present while pre­dict­ing cog­ni­tive per­for­mance, sug­gest­ing that busy­ness was sim­i­lar­ly ben­e­fi­cial in adults aged 50–89. Although cor­re­la­tion­al, these data demon­strate that liv­ing a busy lifestyle is asso­ci­at­ed with bet­ter cog­ni­tion.

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