Sunday, August 29, 2010

How to improve your cognitive function

In an era of ever increasing lifespan, a recent study estimated that there would be 81.1 million people with dementia by 2040 (Ferri et. al., 2005). The prevalence and incidence of dementia has also been documented to increase with increasing age (Fratiglioni, Ronchi & Ag├╝ero-Torres, 1999).



Abraham Lincoln in his infinite wisdom, once said: “In the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years”. So what can we do to enhance our cognitive functions as we age?

The link between exercising and cognitive health is an area of intense research but some questions remains unanswered. What component of cognitive functioning does exercise improves and how much does the quantity of exercise affect any subsequent increase in cognitive functions? Masley, Roetzheim & Gualtieri (2009) provides some answers.

Participants were classified into 3 conditions for a 10 week intervention programme.
  • Control (0 – 2 days/week of aerobic activity)
  • Moderate (3 – 4 days/week of aerobic activity)
  • Intense (5 – 7 days/week of aerobic activity)
They were administered with a set of computerized battery tests that examined their performance on 5 domains – memory, psychomotor speed, information processing time, attention and cognitive flexibility. After a 10 week exercise programme intervention, they were required to complete the test again and their pre and post treatments scores were compared.

Results:

  • After controlling for demographic factors such as age, gender and education, only cognitive flexibility (a measure of executive function) improved significantly.
  • There was a positive relationship between amount of exercise and improvements in cognitive function. The more you exercise, the larger the increase in executive function.

So what are you waiting for? Go get yourself some aerobic exercise (preferably in a natural environment) because interaction with a natural environment as opposed to an urban environment has also been shown to improve cognitive functions. (Berman, Jonides  & Kaplan, 2008)

ResearchBlogging.org
Masley S, Roetzheim R, & Gualtieri T (2009). Aerobic exercise enhances cognitive flexibility. Journal of clinical psychology in medical settings, 16 (2), 186-93 PMID: 19330430

Berman, M., Jonides, J., & Kaplan, S. (2008). The Cognitive Benefits of Interacting With Nature Psychological Science, 19 (12), 1207-1212 DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02225.x

Ferri, C., Prince, M., Brayne, C., Brodaty, H., Fratiglioni, L., Ganguli, M., Hall, K., Hasegawa, K., Hendrie, H., & Huang, Y. (2006). Global prevalence of dementia: a Delphi consensus study The Lancet, 366 (9503), 2112-2117 DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(05)67889-0

Fratiglioni, L., De Ronchi, D., & Ag??ero Torres, H. (1999). Worldwide Prevalence and Incidence of Dementia Drugs & Aging, 15 (5), 365-375 DOI: 10.2165/00002512-199915050-00004

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