Forget brain training gadgets – just writing a letter or reading a newspaper is enough to keep your mind active into old age The simple activities all helped stave off memory lossThose who also played chess, watched a play, or regularly visited the library had 'younger brains'
18:10 GMT, 26 November 2012
18:24 GMT, 26 November 2012
Researchers say that mental activities including writing letters all contribute to the health of the brain
They have seen a surge in popularity of late, marketed as an entertaining workout for the grey matter, and credited with helping to reverse memory loss.
But rather than fork out on expensive 'brain training gadgets', those concerned with staving off memory loss might be better off picking up a pen and remembering the forgotten art of letter writing.
Researchers say that mental activities including board games, reading a newspaper, writing letters or watching a play all contribute to the health of the brain.
Dr Konstantinos Arfanakis, from Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, has led a study into the effects of cognitive activity on the
brain's nerve fibres, or axons, that transmit information
around the brain.
His team found that while the way the brain changed with age or disease – mental activity could keep it healthy.
Dr Arfanakis said: 'Reading the newspaper, writing letters, visiting a library, attending a play or playing games, such as chess or checkers, are all simple activities that can contribute to a healthier brain.'
The study included 152 elderly
participants, with an average age of 81 years, from a project looking at
risk factors for Alzheimer's disease.
All of the participants – who did not have dementia – were asked to rate on a scale of one to five
the frequency with which they participated in a list of mentally
engaging activities during the last year.
Brain training gadgets, such as the Nintendo DS, have been marketed as a workout for the grey matter, but a games of chess, or a crossword can be just as good
Among the activities were reading newspapers and magazines, writing letters and playing cards and board games.
They underwent brain scans within one year of clinical evaluation.
Researchers used the scans to study diffusion anisotropy – or how water molecules move through the brain.
In healthy brains, water is not able to move as freely through the brain.
But in ageing brains water has more freedom to move around the brain in a perpendicular fashion.
The scientists found those who undertook simple brain training exercises had effectively 'younger brains' by studying the movement of water.
Dr Arfanakis said: 'Keeping the brain occupied late in life has positive outcomes.'