According to research conducted at Rush University Medical Center, frequent social activity may help to prevent or delay cognitive decline in old age. The study has just been posted online in the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.
The researchers were especially careful in their analysis to try to rule out the possibility that cognitive decline precedes, or causes, social isolation, and not the reverse.
"It's logical to think that when someone's cognitive abilities break down, they are less likely to go out and meet friends, enjoy a camping trip, or participate in community clubs. If memory and thinking capabilities fail, socializing becomes difficult," said lead researcher Bryan James, PhD, postdoctoral fellow in the epidemiology of aging and dementia in the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center. "But our findings suggest that social inactivity itself leads to cognitive impairments."
The study included 1,138 older adults with a mean age of 80 who are participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, an ongoing longitudinal study of common chronic conditions of aging. They each underwent yearly evaluations that included a medical history and neuropsychological tests.
Social activity was measured based on a questionnaire that asked participants whether, and how often, in the previous year they had engaged in activities that involve social interaction—for example, whether they went to restaurants, sporting events or the teletract (off-track betting) or played bingo; went on day trips or overnight trips; did volunteer work; visited relatives or friends; participated in groups such as the Knights of Columbus; or attended religious services.
Cognitive function was assessed using a battery of 19 tests for various types of memory (episodic, semantic and working memory), as well as perceptual speed and visuospatial ability.
At the start of the investigation, all participants were free of any signs of cognitive impairment. Over an average of five years, however, those who were more socially active showed reduced rates of cognitive decline. On average, those who had the highest levels of social activity (the 90th percentile) experienced only one quarter of the rate of cognitive decline experienced by the least socially active individuals. Other variables that might have accounted for the increase in cognitive decline—such as age, physical exercise, and health—were all ruled out in the analysis.
Why social activity plays a role in the development of cognitive problems is not clear. According to James, one possibility is that "social activity challenges older adults to participate in complex interpersonal exchanges, which could promote or main efficient neural networks in a case of 'use it or lose it.'"
Future research is needed to determine whether interventions aimed at increasing late-life social activity can play a part in delaying or preventing cognitive decline, James said.
Other researchers at Rush involved in the study were Robert Wilson, PhD, Lisa Barnes, PhD, and David Bennett, MD.
Rush is a not-for-profit academic medical center comprising Rush University Medical Center, Rush University, Rush Oak Park Hospital and Rush Health.
Rush is currently constructing a 14-floor, 806,000-square-foot hospital building near the corner of Ashland Avenue and the Eisenhower Expressway. The new hospital, scheduled to open in 2012, is the centerpiece of a $1 billion, ten-year campus redevelopment plan called the Rush Transformation, which also includes completion of a new orthopedics building, a new parking garage and central power plant, renovations of selected existing buildings and demolition of obsolete buildings. In January, Rush opened the new Rush University Cancer Center in completely renovated facilities in its Professional Buildings. The new hospital is designed and built to conserve energy and water, reduce waste and use sustainable building materials. Rush is seeking Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. It will be the first full-service, "green" hospital in Chicago.
Rush's mission is to provide the best possible care for its patients. Educating tomorrow's health care professional, researching new and more advanced treatment options, transforming its facilities and investing in new technologies—all are undertaken with the drive to improve patient care now, and for the future.
Sharon Butler | EurekAlert!
What does congenital Zika syndrome look like?
24.03.2017 | University of California - San Diego
23.03.2017 | Technische Universität München
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
20.03.2017 | Event News
14.03.2017 | Event News
07.03.2017 | Event News
24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences
24.03.2017 | Health and Medicine
24.03.2017 | Earth Sciences