An Australian study has found that older adults could reduce their risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia by taking college courses to boost improve their cognitive skills.
The study, called the Tasmanian Healthy Brain Project, observed 359 participants aged between 50 to 79 years who completed at least a year of a part-time or full-time college course. Cognitive tests were taken both before and after finishing of the course, with participants reassessed annually for the following three years after course completion. None of the participants taking part in the study had dementia.
The results, published this week by the American Psychological Association journal and originally published online in the journal Neuropsychology, showed that more than 90 percent of the participants who had completed a college course displayed a significant increase in cognitive capacity, compared to 56 percent of the control group participants who hadn’t taken any courses.
Commenting on the results lead researcher Megan Lenehan, PhD, said, “The study findings are exciting because they demonstrate that it’s never too late to take action to maximize the cognitive capacity of your brain. We plan to follow these participants as they age to see if college studies could help delay the onset or reduce the debilitating effects of dementia.”
A study published earlier this year by researchers at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, indicated that taking part in creative and social activities in old age can help to reduce the risk of dementia. The results of that study, published in the journal Neurology, showed that participants ages 85 and above who took part in artistic, craft, social, or computer based activities in both mid and later life all saw a decrease in their risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, which often leads to dementia.