behavior · brain · mental health · neuroscience · play · psychology

Playing leads to lower Alzheimer’s risk

English: PET scan of a human brain with Alzhei...
Brain with Alzheimer's. Image via Wikipedia

From USA Today:

People who engage in activities such as reading and playing games throughout their lives may be lowering levels of a protein in their brains that is linked to Alzheimer’s disease, a new study suggests.

Although whether the buildup of the protein, beta amyloid, causes Alzheimer’s disease is debatable, it is a hallmark of the condition, the researchers noted.

“Staying cognitively active over the lifetime may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s by preventing the accumulation of Alzheimer’s-related pathology,” said study author Susan Landau, a research scientist at the Helen Wills Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley.

“Some of the literature has hypothesized this finding, but this is the first study to report that lifetime cognitive activity is directly linked to amyloid deposition in the brain,” she said. “We think that cognitive activity is probably one of a variety of lifestyle practices — occupational, recreational and social activities — that may be important.”

Read more at Keeping brain sharp, active may ward off Alzheimer’s

There have been several different studies that find the correlation between play and a healthy brain less susceptible to dementia, disease, and overall decay. Literally use it or lose it. So you might as well have fun using it!

brain · health · mental health · neuroscience · psychology

Strain on the Brain can lead to long term health problems: Scientific American

PET scan of a human brain with Alzheimer's disease
Image of a brain of a patient with Alzheimer's. Image via Wikipedia

As I sit here stressing out about working on my master’s thesis, a knot in my stomach about the training manual due by the end of day tomorrow, worried about my dog’s injured knee, and wondering why my mom hasn’t called me back yet, I was reminded of an article I read recently in Scientific American about the really, really damaging effects of stress, particularly over the long term.

A recent wave of research has unveiled an important environmental player in the genesis of neurodegenerative disease: stress.Pairs of identical twins developed Alzheimer’s disease in concert only 40 percent of the time, showing that factors other than genetics must contribute to the disorder.Stress seems to impede the ability of certain brain cells to recover from insults, triggering or aggravating the symptoms of disorders such as Parkinson’s.

more via Strain on the Brain: Scientific American.

We’ve been aware for awhile that long-term, ongoing stress is bad for us, even before Robert Zapolsky’s Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers came out, but it’s still a nice reminder how important it is for all of us to take a break every once in awhile.