In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

July 17, 2014

Sudoku + Sondheim = A Sharper You

By In the Loop

Elderly couple using computer. Be cool. Stay in school. It turns out that old saying may be relevant even to those of us who are well past school-age. According to a story in the Poughkeepsie Journal, Mayo Clinic radiologist Prashanthi Vemuri, Ph.D., and a team of researchers studied what a lifetime of learning could do to prevent the onset of dementia. The learning did not have to be formal. The researchers found that reading, playing music and even playing games can help protect us from dementia. (Excuse us while we fire up Candy Crush Saga.)

"In terms of preventing cognitive impairment, education and occupation are important ... but so is intellectually stimulating activity during mid- to late-life," Dr. Vemuri tells the Journal.

The research team tracked 2,000 men and women ages 70 to 89 from 2004 to 2009. Most participants (about 1,700) had no mental impairment when the study began, and the rest had only mild impairment. They were scored based on these factors: past educational achievements; how intellectually complex their jobs had been; how much they had intellectually engaged themselves; and whether they carried a specific type of the APOE gene (considered to be the most significant risk factor for late-onset Alzheimer's disease).

The researchers learned that those who carried the APOE gene but were engaged in mentally stimulating activities delayed their risk for dementia by nine years, while those who scored low on education, occupation and intellectual activity had lower mental functioning.

Just how often do we need to kick our brains into high gear, you might wonder. "Doing cognitive activities at least three times a week was highly protective," Dr. Vemuri tells The Atlantic. And for those concerned about not being on board the whole mental stimulation thing soon enough, she offered this: "If you start early, your brain is probably sharper. But it's never too late, that's one strong message from the study."

Stimulate your intellect by sharing your comments below. And if you really want to stretch yourself, try sharing this story with those near and dear to you using the built-in social media tools.

Tags: Alzheimer's Disease, Dementia, Dr. Prashanthi Vemuri, research, Research News

For my brain stimulation, I am pondering Dr. Vemuri, a radiologist, performed this research. It seems typical for researchers to perform work only within their designated specialty. I wonder if there are other noteworthy cases where researchers cross disciplines at Mayo?


It looks like Dr. Vemuri is a neuroradiologist. Here’s a link to her research page:

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