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Brain Exercises

 

Brain training activities may help reduce risk of dementia

Activities that stimulate and challenge the brain, such as dancing or learning a foreign language, may help to reduce the risk of dementia, experts say.

Almost 1 million Australians are expected to develop the condition, which slowly eats away at the brain, by the middle of the 2050.

Professor Henry Brodaty has been studying Alzheimer's for more than 30 years and said people who use their brain more are "less likely to get Alzheimer's or likely to get it later in life". As scientists search for a drug to stop or reverse the disease, much more is now known about the risk factors. Some cannot be controlled, such as old age - one in four people over the age of 85 will develop dementia.

"People who are overweight, have type-2 diabetes [or] high blood pressure are at increased risk," Professor Brodaty told 7.30. "Also, people who have low education or lack of cognitive stimulation in their everyday activities." Smoking also adds to the risk, he said. "So these are all things we can do something about. "Calculations are that about a third of the risk can be attributed to these modifiable factors."

Brain Video Game

Brain training is a popular way of trying to keep the mind sharp into old age but views about its value to everyday life are mixed.

 

However, the researchers at the University of California believe their NeuroRacer game is different as it was designed to improve multi-tasking, a skill known to deteriorate with age.

 

 

Adam Gazzaley, one of the study's authors and a brain scientist at the University of California, San Francisco developed the game with assistance from professional video game developers. Gazzaley's lab came up with a custom-designed three dimensional video game called NeuroRacer.

 

To test the game, Gazzaley's team recruited 46 healthy people who ranged in age from 60 to 85 years old.

 

Players use a joystick to navigate a car along a winding road while various signs pop up. Users must push a button when they see one particular sign while ignoring all the others.

 

The game gets more difficult as a player improves but shouldn't become so difficult that it is too frustrating to enjoy.

 

Tests showed that a small amount of practice led to rapid improvements. After just 12 hours of using it on a laptop at home over a month, the pensioners fared better than players who were decades younger.

 

Adam says "After training, they improved their multi-tasking beyond the level of 20-year-olds."

 

Working memory and attention span also improved, despite the game not aiming to do this, reported the journal Nature.

 

To watch the video of the study please click here.

 

Please note NeuroRacer is not commercially available.

 

(Resources: Mail Online & Nature)

 

 

Workouts

Like your muscles, your brain needs regular workouts to stay healthy and fit as you age. It is therefore important to challenge yourself, keep mentally active, read and learn new skills.

Just as weight workouts add lean muscle to your body and help you retain more muscle in your later years, researchers now believe that following a brain-healthy lifestyle and performing regular, targeted brain exercises can also increase your brain's cognitive reserve.

Some simple brain exercises are included below and further information on helping to maintain a healthy brain are also included in this website.

 

Brain exercise examples

Recall test

Make a list of five items in your lounge room and memorise it. An hour or so later, see how many items you can recall. Make items on the list as challenging as possible for the greatest mental stimulation!

 

Memory map game

After returning home from visiting a new place, try to draw a map of the area; repeat this exercise each time you visit a new location. Try driving home using a different route.

 

Maths puzzles

Figure out problems without using a pencil and paper or a calculator.

 

New recipes

Cooking uses a number of senses: smell, touch, sight, and taste, which all use different parts of the brain.

 

Word pictures

Visualise the spelling of a word in your head, then try and think of any other words that begin (or end) with the same two letters. As well, you can play word games like Sudoku and crossword puzzles.

 

Learn a foreign language

The listening and hearing involved in learning a new language stimulates the brain.

 

Learn music

Learn to play a musical instrument or study music.

 

Hand-eye training

Learn a new skill that involves fine-motor skills, such as knitting, drawing, painting, assembling a puzzle, etc.

 

Sporting activities

Take up an exercise that utilizes the mind and body, like golf or basketball or dancing.