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Mental and Physical Activity Can Boost Cognitive Function

Last Updated: December 25, 2009.

Elders at risk for cognitive impairment can improve cognitive function with increased mental and physical activity, according to a study in the December issue of the Journals of Gerontology.

FRIDAY, Dec. 25 (HealthDay News) -- Elders at risk for cognitive impairment can improve cognitive function with increased mental and physical activity, according to a study in the December issue of the Journals of Gerontology.

Michelle C. Carlson, Ph.D., of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues conducted a study of 17 community-dwelling older African-American women with low income and low education, of whom eight were randomized to participate in a six-month program where they assisted kindergarten through third-grade teachers to promote children's literacy and academic performance, while nine women put on the waiting list for the program acted as controls.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging before and after the intervention, the researchers were able to assess the effect on brain activity and found that, relative to the control group, those in the intervention group had more brain activity in the left prefrontal cortex and the anterior cingulate cortex.

"These findings offer next-level questions about the ability of this program, and others like it, to reset one's trajectory of cognitive decline with age, particularly among those at elevated risk for dementia by virtue of impoverished environments over the life course, as marked by low or poor quality education and low income," the authors write.

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