From The “News That Does Not Surprise Me” Department…

Lifetime of Reading Slows Cognitive Decline

“Habitual participation in cognitively stimulating pursuits over a lifetime might substantially increase the efficiency of some cognitive systems,” writes a research team led by neuropsychologist Robert Wilson of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center. This efficiency apparently counteracts the often-devastating effects of nervous system diseases.

Wilson and his colleagues describe a study of 294 elderly people, who began by reporting their level of cognitive activity—not only at the present time, but also during childhood, young adulthood, and middle age. They specifically noted how often they performed such activities as reading books, writing letters, or visiting a library at each stage of their lives.

Their cognitive functioning was then examined on a yearly basis up until their death. Tests were given to measure a variety of skills, including long-term memory, working memory, and visuospatial ability. Finally, within hours after their deaths, their brains were removed and examined for evidence of various diseases.

The key result: “More frequent cognitive activity can counterbalance the cognitive loss associated with neuropathological conditions.”

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