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Study: Actual, sustained practice–not mere knowledge–is needed to harness neuroplasticity and improve cognition over time

Lifestyle improvements may lessen Cognitive Decline (Wiley):

” … 19 individuals older than 65 years of age who were Experiencing Cognitive Decline were randomized to a control group or an intervention group for 8 weeks. The control group received online information related to dementia and Lifestyle Risk Factors, Mediterranean diet, physical activity, and cognitive engagement. Participants were instructed to implement this information into their own lifestyles. The intervention group received the same online information, plus active components to assist with implementing this information into their lifestyles: dietitian sessions, an exercise physiologist session, and online brain training.

Over 6 months of follow-up, investigators noted that participants in the intervention group were able to improve their lifestyle and had higher cognition scores than those in the control group. The results suggest that lifestyle-based changes may modify the course of cognitive decline.

“We’ve known for some time that lifestyle changes such as these can reduce dementia risk in the general population. What this study adds is that with the right intervention, people experiencing cognitive decline may retain sufficient neuroplasticity for their brain to ‘bounce back’ from decline,” said lead author Mitchell McMaster, a PhD student at The Australian National University.

The Study:

Lifestyle Risk Factors and Cognitive Outcomes from the Multidomain Dementia Risk Reduction Randomized Controlled Trial, Body Brain Life for Cognitive Decline (BBL?CD) (Journal of the American Geriatrics Society). From the abstract:

  • BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: To evaluate the efficacy of a multidomain intervention to reduce lifestyle risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and improve cognition in individuals with subjective cognitive decline (SCD) or mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
  • INTERVENTION: The control condition involved four educational modules covering dementia and lifestyle risk factors, Mediterranean diet, physical activity, and cognitive engagement. Participants were instructed to implement this information into their own lifestyle. The intervention condition included the same educational modules and additional active components to assist with the implementation of this information into participants’ lifestyles: dietitian sessions, an exercise physiologist session, and online brain training.
  • RESULTS: The primary analysis showed that the intervention group had a significantly lower ANU?ADRI score (?2 = 10.84; df = 3; P = .013) and a significantly higher cognition score (?2 = 7.28; df = 2; P = .026) than the control group.
  • CONCLUSION: Results support the hypothesis that improvements in lifestyle risk factors for dementia can lead to improvements in cognition over a short time frame with a population experiencing cognitive decline. Outcomes from this trial support the conduct of a larger and longer trial with this participant group.

The Study in Context:

  • Can you grow your hippocampus? Yes. Here’s how, and why it matters
  • How learning changes your brain
  • To harness neuroplasticity, start with enthusiasm
  • Solving the Brain Fitness Puzzle Is the Key to Self-Empowered Aging
  • What are cognitive abilities and how to boost them?
  • The Ten Habits of Highly Effective Brains
What are most promising lifestyle and tech options to harness lifelong neuroplasticity, and what are key roadblocks ahead? from SharpBrains

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Study: Actual, sustained practice–not mere knowledge–is needed to harness neuroplasticity and improve cognition over time

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