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03-02-2017 | Neurodegeneration | News | Article

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Mentally stimulating activities in later life may stave off MCI

medwireNews: Regularly engaging in mentally stimulating activities in later life could help reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), research suggests.

The study, reported in JAMA Neurology, involved 1929 individuals aged 74–82 years who were cognitively healthy at the start of the study in 2006, 456 of whom developed new-onset MCI over a median of 4 years.

Playing games, engaging in craft and social activities, and using computers at least once or twice a week, compared with at most two to three times a month, were all significantly associated with a decreased risk for incident MCI after taking into account gender, age, and education level, with risk reductions ranging from 22% to 30%.

These associations remained after further adjustment for medical comorbidity, depression, and apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 status, with the exception of that for playing games.

Stratification for APOE ε4 status showed both that carriers had the highest overall risk for MCI and that they benefitted less than noncarriers from engaging in activities. However, there was still evidence of a positive effect, particularly for engaging in social activities, which reduced risk by a significant 36%, and for computer use, which had a borderline significant benefit.

Although the observational nature of the study prevents conclusions on cause and effect, Yonas Geda (Mayo Clinic, Scottsdale, Arizona, USA) and co-researchers propose that there may be a direct accumulative effect of these activities on reducing cognitive decline or an association with other protective lifestyle factors.

“Also, the cognitive reserve theory states that engagement in mentally stimulating activities or high educational level may buffer the negative effects of normal brain pathological changes on cognitive function,” they add.

By Lucy Piper                                                        

medwireNews is an independent medical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2017

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