Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Cognitive Reserve and Intellectually Demanding Jobs

I hope you are hav­ing hap­py hol­i­days, and are get­ting ready for New Year cel­e­bra­tions. Best wish­es to you and your loved ones.

Via Med­Jour­nal­Watch we just found this inter­est­ing paper,

Asso­ci­a­tions of job demands and intel­li­gence with cog­ni­tive per­for­mance among men in late life. Guy G. Pot­ter PhD*, Michael J. Helms BS, and Bren­da L. Plass­man PhD Neu­rol­o­gy 2007.

- CONCLUSIONS: “Intel­lec­tu­al­ly demand­ing work was asso­ci­at­ed with greater ben­e­fit to cog­ni­tive per­for­mance in lat­er life inde­pen­dent of relat­ed fac­tors like edu­ca­tion and intel­li­gence. The fact that indi­vid­u­als with low­er intel­lec­tu­al apti­tude demon­strat­ed a stronger pos­i­tive asso­ci­a­tion between work and high­er cog­ni­tive per­for­mance dur­ing retire­ment sug­gests that behav­ior may enhance intel­lec­tu­al reserve, per­haps even years after peak intel­lec­tu­al activ­i­ty.”

This is con­sis­tent with the Cog­ni­tive Reserve the­o­ry we dis­cussed in the inter­view with neu­ro­sci­en­tist Yaakov Stern:

- AF (Alvaro Fer­nan­dez): OK, so our goal is to build that Reserve of neu­rons, synaps­es, and skills. How can we do that? What defines “men­tal­ly stim­u­lat­ing activ­i­ties” or good “brain exer­cise”?

- YS (Yaakov Stern): In sum­ma­ry, we could say that “stim­u­la­tion” con­sists of engag­ing in activ­i­ties. In our research almost all activ­i­ties are seen to con­tribute to reserve. Some have chal­leng­ing lev­els of cog­ni­tive com­plex­i­ty, and some have inter­per­son­al or phys­i­cal demands. In ani­mal stud­ies, expo­sure to an enriched envi­ron­ment or increased phys­i­cal activ­i­ty result in increased neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis (the cre­ation of new neu­rons). You can get that stim­u­la­tion through edu­ca­tion and/ or your occu­pa­tion. There is clear research show­ing how those two ele­ments reduce the risk. Now, what is very excit­ing is that, no mat­ter one’s age, edu­ca­tion and occu­pa­tion, our lev­el of par­tic­i­pa­tion in leisure activ­i­ties has a sig­nif­i­cant and cumu­la­tive effect. A key mes­sage here is that dif­fer­ent activ­i­ties have inde­pen­dent, syn­er­gis­tic, con­tri­bu­tions, which means the more things you do and the ear­li­er you start, the bet­ter. But you are nev­er stuck: bet­ter late than nev­er.

- Read more on the Cog­ni­tive Reserve

In short, men­tal­ly and social­ly stim­u­lat­ing activ­i­ties, through our edu­ca­tion, occu­pa­tion AND leisure activ­i­ties, con­tribute to build­ing a Cog­ni­tive Reserve in our brains that may help delay mem­o­ry prob­lems, Mild Cog­ni­tive Impair­ment, and Alzheimer’s relat­ed symp­toms, and help main­tain cog­ni­tive per­for­mance over­all as we age.

If you are think­ing about New Year Res­o­lu­tions, this is one more area to con­sid­er. Hap­py 2008!

Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) and other stress management techniques

We have explained before how men­tal stim­u­la­tion is impor­tant if done in the right sup­port­ive and engag­ing envi­ron­ment. Stanford’s Robert Sapol­sky and oth­ers’ have shown that chron­ic stress and cor­ti­cal inhi­bi­tion, which may be aggra­vat­ed due to imposed men­tal stim­u­la­tion, may prove coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. Hav­ing the right moti­va­tion is essen­tial.

A promis­ing area of sci­en­tif­ic inquiry for stress man­age­ment’ is Mind­ful­ness-Based Stress Reduc­tion (MBSR).’ You may have read about it in Sharon Begley’s’ Train Your Mind, Change Your Brain’ book. An increas­ing num­ber of neu­ro­sci­en­tists (such as UMass Med­ical School’s Jon Kabat-Zinn and Uni­ver­si­ty of Wisconsin-Madison’s Richard David­son) have been inves­ti­gat­ing the abil­i­ty of trained med­i­ta­tors to devel­op and sus­tain atten­tion and visu­al­iza­tions and to work pos­i­tive­ly with pow­er­ful emo­tion­al states and stress through the direct­ed men­tal process­es of med­i­ta­tion prac­tices. And have put their research into prac­tice for the ben­e­fit of many hos­pi­tal patients through their MSBR pro­grams.

A Stan­ford psy­chol­o­gist and friend recent­ly alert­ed me to a sim­i­lar pro­gram orga­nized Read the rest of this entry »

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters and more, SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking health and performance applications of brain science.

Follow us and Engage via…

RSS Feed

Search for anything brain-related in our article archives

Enter Your Email to receive Sharp­Brains free, monthly eNewslet­ter:

Join more than 50,000 Sub­scribers and stay informed and engaged.