Jessica Langbaum is a specialist in Alzheimer’s prevention and she knows that she can keep her brain sharp by exercising her mind’s muscles. However, despite her holding of a doctorate in psychiatric epidemiology, she doesn’t keep a regular mental fitness program, like doing crossword puzzles or playing various brain games.
She says that “just sitting down and doing Sudoku isn’t probably going to be the one key thing that’s going to prevent you from developing Alzheimer’s disease”. Instead of following a strict brain training program, she says that she only goes to work. Her job is her cognitive training which she performs on a daily basis.
This can be applied for most working people because – she says – “while you’re still in the workforce you are getting that daily challenge of multitasking, of remembering things, of processing information”. Of course, this comes from a person who has the perspective of someone who studied the effects of brain training programs for years.
She also speaks as someone who saw what Alzheimer’s does up close. She said that “my grandfather was diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment when I was in graduate school getting my Ph.D. That transitioned into full-blown Alzheimer’s dementia”. That’s when she asked herself how she can help so that we won’t suffer through the same problem.
Early on, she realized that games or puzzles don’t really help since they focus on a narrow task. It would be like exercising only one muscle in our body and while that muscle will get stronger, the overall fitness level isn’t changing. The programs used in research studies are harder, she says, as they test your memory, speed or reasoning.
Langbaum said that “they delay the onset of cognitive impairment. They keep your brain working at the same level longer, compared to people who did not receive those same cognitive training interventions.”
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