As our aging population is growing rapidly and our expected lifespan has reached an all time high of 80 years or so, cognitive loss is inevitable. In fact, research has demonstrated that cognitive decline can occur as early as within the fourth decade of life. Nevertheless, cognitive loss can be restored. According to researchers at The Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas, brain function that has been lost can be improved with brain training that supports complex cognitive function and significantly improve overall cognitive brain health.
According to, Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHeath, and Dee Wyly, distinguished University Chair at The University of Texas at Dallas, commented recently that “Until recently, cognitive decline in healthy adults was viewed as an inevitable consequence of aging. This research shows that neuroplasticity can be harnessed to enhance brain performance and provides hope for individuals to improve their own mental capacity and cognitive brain health by habitually exercising higher-order thinking strategies no matter their age.”
The study found that 12 hours of directed brain training was able to induce and increase in blood flow, improve information communication across certain brain areas and expand structural connections between areas of the brain associated with new learning. The researchers were able to use 3 MRI-based measurements to gather data in randomized samples from individuals that ranged in age from 56 to 71 years of age.
The researchers found that there were 3 significant training-related brain changes associated with rest, which included an increase in both overall and regional brain blood flow, greater synchrony in certain brain networks, and an increase in white matter functionality.
According to Dr. Sina Aslan, founder and president of Advance MRI and collaborator on the study, “Advances in imaging are allowing us to measure brain change in a short time period. Through this research, we are able to see that cognitive training increases brain blood flow, which is a sensitive physiological marker of brain health. Previous research shows brain blood flow decreases in people beginning in their 20s. The finding that global brain blood flow can be increased with complex mental activity, as this study demonstrates, suggests that staying mentally active helps reverse and potentially prevent brain losses and cognitive decline with aging.” Aslan goes on further to point out that, the ability to increase blood circulation after brain training may have important clinical implications in both the aging populations as well as those who are diagnosed with brain dysfunction.
It has been proven that increases in levels of blood flow are linked to higher memory ability. With an increase of a little as 8 percent blood flow, many patients may be able to increase measurable brain function and improve over all brain function. Chapman also points out that younger adults may be able to achieve healthier brain habits early in adulthood to prevent or at least stave off cognitive decline in memory deficits.
The researchers were also able to observe improvement in two different cognitive areas: the ability of strategic reasoning and the ability to bring about abstraction to concepts.
The current research doesn’t address how long this training will be maintained, however, based on other evidence, they believe that as long as the process is maintained, it should be able to be utilized, so long as an individual stays mentally healthy and continues to use this strategy.
At this point, the current study provides information on the ability for the brain to provide cognitive plasticity (ability to learn) in response to a planed mental training program, which has been observed to enhance neurogenerative potential in the aging brain.
As the researchers point out, older Americans are apt to experience changes in their ability to remember and learn information, nevertheless, it is still possible to improve on these deficits. What is important is that advances in our ability to understand how the nervous system works is important to our understanding of how to correct brain dysfunction as it occurs. As we learn more about the nervous system, the more we can try to correct problems.
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