Mid-life social, physical and intellectual activities protect old-age cognition against brain decline
Despite age-related brain shrinkage, some people are able to maintain their thinking abilities into older age and have a low risk of developing dementia.
The term “cognitive reserve” has been used to explain this phenomenon, representing the idea that a good brain function can sustain marked changes in the brain structure. This led us to search for factors that may improve cognitive reserve. For many years, we have known that the number of years spent in childhood education may contribute to cognitive reserve. However, in a recent study of the CamCAN cohort Lifebrain researchers in Cambridge found that lifestyle activities in midlife also may contribute to cognitive reserve. Old people who during middle age participated in higher levels of social, physical and intellectual activities had better thinking ability than people of similar age who undertook fewer of these midlife activities, despite age-related reduction in their brain sizes.