As the population ages, the number of people with old age dementia and particularly Alzheimer’s disease is on the rise. According to the Alzheimer’s Disease International, 35.6 million people worldwide are living with this debilitating disease, and the number is expected to grow to 115 million people by 2050. There is currently no cure for Alzheimer’s, except to alleviate symptoms and slow the progress of the disease. The recent study conducted by the researchers from the Neuroscience Institute at the University of California, Berkeley found that life-long engagement in brain-stimulating games may prevent the onset of Alzheimer’s or significantly slow its progress.
Use it or lose it
Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia. It is a brain disease that is not normal part of ageing, but it strikes mostly people older than 60, of both sexes. The disease is progressive and ultimately fatal, and as it destroys brain cells, it affects memory, thinking and behavior.
The research participants consisted of people of different ages, some health and some with different stages of Alzheimer’s. Scientists used their brain scans as well as questionnaires about their lifestyle. The goal was to find out how the lifestyle which consisted of life-long use of brain stimulation, trough reading, writing and social games, affects the brain. The scientists discovered that people who did not frequently engage in brain-stimulating activities had more Beta-amyloid protein, a chemical that forms amyloid plaque. Amyloid plaque is one of the most important markers of Alzheimer’s disease. The most interesting result of the study was the fact that older participants, who used to play puzzles, read books and engage in other mental activities throughout their lives, had brain scans comparable with those of much younger, healthy participants.
The longer the better
The conclusion of the study is that the best results were seen in participants who played games, read and in general used different ways to stimulate their brains through out their life. While the results were not so significant in people who started playing games late in life, they still did show better results over those who did not do any mental activities.
One of the explanations of the study results is that continued brain stimulation and formation of new synapses between neurons prevents brain from forming plaque, one of the main causes of the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Playing games is good for older people for more reasons than preventing old age dementia. It offers them a necessary lever of social life, prevents loneliness, helps improve dexterity and offers a sense of achievement when the game is completed successfully. It is crucial that people who care for people with dementia chose games that are not too difficult, but not marked for children, so that they do not get insulted.