Aging and Brain Health: What Have You Been Learning Lately?

Reader Contribution by Staff
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 Learning a new instrument or language may help
 keep your mind sharp.

According to Can Memory Loss be Prevented?, from the New York Times, recent cognitive study suggests that learning a challenging new skill, such as a new language or musical instrument, “may be even more effective than mental games [think Sudoku] at keeping the brain sharp.” While crossword puzzles alone can aid in very specific types of mental agility, such as word recall, you may get more significant results with “mental cross-training” — specifically, trying a variety of activities, especially those that will challenge your brain in “entirely different ways, preferably for years.”

“One problem with aging is that you develop expertise in a few things and do them over and over,” said Dr. Carstensen [director of the Center on Longevity at Stanford University]. “Proficiency is good, but it’s probably not growing new synapses.”

The benefits of taking up a new activity aren’t limited to good brain health (though that’s certainly worthy on it’s own). As part of one recent study, participant Bob Branham, 78, was randomly assigned to take up quilting — and discovered he loved it. In addition to staying sharp as a tack, Branham found a new passion, is making new friends and developing new skills, and might even start a new business. Not a bad list of side effects.

Have you taken up a challenging new hobby or activity recently?

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