Conference Coverage

Mentally Stimulating Activities in Late Life May Reduce the Risk of MCI



VANCOUVER—Keeping the brain active with mentally stimulating activities and social activities may help older adults reduce their risk of developing mild cognitive impairment (MCI), according to a study presented at the 68th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology. "The results show the importance of keeping the mind active as we age," said study author Janina Krell-Roesch, PhD, a research fellow at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona. "While this study only shows association, not cause and effect, as people age, they may want to consider participating in activities like these because they may keep a mind healthier, longer."

Janina Krell-Roesch, PhD

For the study, researchers followed 1,929 people age 70 and older who were part of the larger Mayo Clinic Study of Aging in Rochester, Minnesota. The participants had normal memory and thinking abilities at recruitment to the study. They were then followed for an average of four years until they developed MCI or remained impairment-free.

Participants were asked via questionnaire about their engagement in mentally stimulating activities such as computer use, reading, crafting, and social activities within 12 months before participation in the study. The investigators then wanted to know if participants who engaged in mental activities at least once per week had a lower risk for new-onset MCI, as compared with those participants who did not engage in these activities. Cognitive diagnosis was made by an expert consensus panel. The study found that people who used a computer once per week or more were 42% less likely to develop memory and thinking problems than those who did not. A total of 193 out of 1,077 people (17.9%) in the computer use group developed mild cognitive impairment, compared with 263 out of 852 (30.9%) people in the group that did not report computer use.

People who engaged in social activities were 23% less likely to develop memory problems than those who did not engage in social activities. A total of 154 out of 767 people (20.1%) in the social activities group developed problems, compared with 302 out of 1,162 people (26.0%) who did not participate in social activities.

People who reported reading magazines were 30% less likely to develop memory problems. Those who engaged in craft activities such as knitting were 16% less likely to develop memory problems. Similarly, those who played games were 14% less likely to develop memory problems.

After stratification by APOE ε4 status, findings remained the same for APOE ε4 noncarriers. However, only computer use and social activities were associated with a decreased risk of incident MCI for APOE ε4 carriers.

The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging, National Institute of Mental Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Robert H. and Clarice Smith and Abigail Van Buren Alzheimer's Disease Research Program, the European Regional Development Fund, and the Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium.

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