CHICAGO (Reuters) – People who challenge their brains throughout their lifetimes — through reading, writing and playing games — are less likely to develop protein deposits in the brain linked with Alzheimer’s, researchers said on Monday.
Prior studies have suggested that people who are well educated and stay mentally active build up brain reserves that allow them to stay sharp even if deposits of the destructive protein called beta amyloid form in the brain.
But the latest study, based on brain-imaging research, suggests that people who stay mentally engaged beginning in childhood and remain so throughout their lives actually develop fewer amyloid plaques.
“We’re not talking about the brain’s response to amyloid. We’re talking about the actual accumulation of amyloid,” Dr. William Jagust of the University of California, Berkeley, whose study appears in the Archives of Neurology, said in an interview. “It’s a brand new finding.”
While small, the study also shows that starting brain-stimulating activities early enough might offer a way to prevent Alzheimer’s-related plaques from building up in the brain.