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Published on: September 3, 2015
by Corey Olson for KTRH:
50 is the new 42—that’s the conclusion of a new study out of England that finds middle-aged people are showing improved brain function thanks to technological advances. The study found that those aged 50 or over tested the same or better for cognitive function as those up to eight years younger. The researchers concluded that increased use of technology like smartphones, tablets and online services is keeping people’s minds sharper.
Dr. Paul Schulz, neurologist with UT Health Science Center and the Mischer Neuroscience Institute at Memorial Hermann, finds the research encouraging. He agrees that increased use of technology is keeping people more mentally stimulated. “You don’t see anybody just standing at the elevator door anymore, everybody pulls out their iPhone and reads the news or social media,” says Dr. Schulz. But he notes there are other factors for the improvement in brain function among older people. “We also have better nutrition, better schooling, better healthcare, better access to it, better monitoring of all the items known to affect cognitive function like blood sugar and cholesterol,” he says.
As a general rule, keeping your brain stimulated is a good way to maintain cognitive function as you get older, whether it’s navigating smartphone apps or simply putting a puzzle together. But Dr. Schulz warns that a healthy brain goes beyond mental stimulation. “Physical activity is almost better in some ways, because it affects the whole brain instead of just the area that you’re working on cognitively.”
So far, the research is far from conclusive, but it could provide a roadmap for improving brain health as people age. “If (the research) is in fact, borne out over time, it would be very positive news, that all of the things we’re doing to try to help people’s health and brain function may actually be having an impact,” says Dr. Schulz.
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