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Socialize Your Brain

“Within the last decade or so we’ve started to learn that brain fitness is a bit akin to physical fitness,” Aaron Seitz, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Riverside, says “If we exercise our brain in the proper ways, pretty much everything that the brain does should be able to be improved.” *

Who doesn’t want improved brain function? I certainly do — coming from a long line of women with dementia. So, according to advertisements for this and other apps like Lumosity and Brain Matrix, we get our brains in tip-top shape by playing their mind exercising games.

I took the bait with Lumosity. I downloaded the free app and have enjoyed playing the three challenges the app lets me do a day. Of course, if I would sign a contract and pay its monthly fee, I could play even more games and be even sharper. I was smart enough, though, to know that I could not afford the monthly fee. Maybe those three games a day have already helped.

The tests were fun to do, but would they “save” me from dementia? An online search turned up differing opinions.

In 2010, neuroscientist Dr Adrian Owen tracked 11,000 adults over a six-week computer-based training regime designed to improve reasoning, memory, planning, visuospatial skills and attention, reported benefits in executing the tasks themselves but little general advantage in other areas.

In 2013, Dr Adam Hampshire published research showing that out of 44,600 individuals, … who had regularly brain-trained, showed no advantage in any form of intelligence relative to those who did not.

So is there anything I can do that’s free and will stimulate my brain? According to a website advocating Alzheimer’s prevention, there are six pillars of a brain-healthy lifestyle. Mental stimulation is just one of the six.

1. Regular exercise
2. Healthy diet
3. Mental stimulation
4. Quality sleep
5. Stress management
6. An active social life

I’ll keep on playing my “free” mental games, but will concentrate on the other five pillars, especially keeping an active social life. Unfortunately, this is the one pillar that can be harder to achieve as we age.

“Lack of social contact is stressful for all social animals, and high chronic stress increases risk of cardiovascular disease, some cancers, obesity, all mental illnesses and addictions.

“Socializing relieves stress, and there’s a huge connection between stress and problems with the brain as we get older,” says Bryan James, with the Alzheimer’s Disease Center in Chicago.

Having a highly active social life can decrease Alzheimer’s disease risk by a surprisingly high 70 percent, according to new findings published in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society

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About Dee Litten Whited

Dee Litten Whited

writes from Virginia.

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