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Don't forget to keep training your brain

In recent years we have made some fascinating discoveries about the brain. Scientists used to think that the ability of the brain to change (known as brain plasticity) in response to stimuli such as learning, occurred only in younger people.1

We now know that the brain retains its plasticity throughout life. What’s more, we need to keep using our brains to keep them functioning well.2

Having an active brain promotes a positive attitude to life3 – an important benefit for people living
with Osteoarthritis.

Does it matter what we learn or is it the process of learning that makes the difference? The evidence suggests that it’s the learning process. For example, in one study, learning to juggle balls led to an increase in brain grey matter.1

In another study, mature adults who completed computer-based training sessions showed improvement in a range of brain functionality measures, including enhancement of memory.4

Activities to help keep your mind active:
 
  • puzzles and word games
  • learning a language
  • playing an instrument
  • reading, writing, painting and drawing.

The more frequent the activity, the greater the benefit.5 So, it seems like a good idea to incorporate brain work into the daily routine.

To maximise our brain health, we should aim to combine mental, physical and social stimulation, as there is evidence that the combination is greater than the sum of its parts.6 In other words, live a full life and take every opportunity to try new things.

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References:
  1. Boyke J, et al. Training-induced brain structure changes in the elderly. The journal of Neuroscience 2008;28(28):7031-7035.
  2. Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Understanding the brain: the birth of a learning science, 2008. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/39/53/40554190.pdf
  3. Australian Psychology Association. Ageing Positively. http://www.psychology.org.au/publications/tip_sheets/ageing/
  4. Mahncke MW, et al. Memory enhancement in healthy older adults using a brain plasticity-based training program: a randomized, controlled study. PNAS 2006;103(33):12523-12528.
  5. Mayo Clinic. Dementia, April 2011. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dementia/DS01131
  6. Valenzuela M. The changing brain. Health 2011;174-185.
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