Study Shows Mentally Stimulating Activities Reduce Cognitive Impairment


By Kristina Mancino

          Mild cognitive impairment is known clinically as the intermediate stage between normal cognitive function and dementia. A new study researched whether or not mentally stimulating activities can reduce the risk of mild cognitive impairment. In several long-term studies, between 16 and 20 percent of people developed mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Mild cognitive impairment is the loss of cognitive function, it’s not severe enough to interfere with daily activities, but it’s likely 20 to 40 percent of people with MCI develop dementia.

         Dr. Yonas E. Geda from the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, AZ, led the new study, which took a look a the possible link between brain-stimulating activities and cognitive functioning in healthy adults aged 70+. The study also analyzed the influence of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) ε4 genotype. During the study, Mayo Clinic Study of Aging, 1,929 cognitively healthy seniors, were examined for 4 years to see how many would develop mild cognitive impairment. Dr. Geda and her team used the Cox regression models for statistical analysis and adjusted it for sex, age, and education.  Participants were given an examine before starting, all were cognitively normal and provided information about the brain stimulating activities they participated in during that year. Every 15 months each participant were given a neurocognitive assessment starting with the baseline for seniors. They also took blood tests to determine APOE ε4 genotyping with is commonly associated with a high risk of late-onset dementia. It has yet to be determined the mechanism responsible between the gene variant and the buildup of Alzheimer’s-related amyloid plaques.  

         The end result of the study showed 456 participants (over 23 percent) developed new-onset mild cognitive impairment. Furthermore, it was concluded that 512 participants (26.7 percent) carried the APOE ε4 genotype. The research also found that brain-stimulating activities such as computer use, crafts, social activities, and playing game significantly decreased the risk on new-onset mild cognitive impairment. Statistically, reading books was associated with a significant decrease. People who weren’t carriers of APOE ε4 genotype and participated in mentally stimulating activitied had the lowest risk of mild cognitive impairment. Noted, those did carry APOE ε4 and did not actively engage in mentally stimulating activities showed the highest risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.

         The conclusion of the study found that engaging in brain-stimulating activities later in life can lower the chances of developing MCI.