Exercising the Brain to Avoid Cognitive Decline

Examining the Evidence

William E Reichman; Alexandra J Fiocco; Nathan S Rose


Aging Health. 2010;6(5):565-584. 

In This Article

Conclusion & Future Perspective

It is anticipated that as the population continues to age rapidly across the globe, cognitive disorders such as AD will pose even greater public health challenges. As a result, increasing attention is being devoted to methods to help prevent age-associated cognitive decline. At the same time, new scientific insights into how cognition changes with normal as well as pathological aging continue to emerge. For example, observational evidence suggests that throughout adult life, there may be opportunities to protect and even enhance brain and cognitive function through prudent attention to modifying factors such as lifestyle, work and recreational choices, exercise, diet, health management and even by other means such as cognitive training. To date, the available scientific data offer promise, but few definitive conclusions. Clearly, much more research is needed in this area. The coming decade will probably see an aggressive and focused international research effort to identify proven means to prevent cognitive decline and strengthen cognitive functions in healthy aging adults as well as to treat evident dementia. A potential risk for the field of cognition and aging is that the growth of the largely unregulated commercial market for brain fitness products targeted to consumers will continue to out-pace the advancement of science that demonstrates the benefits of these approaches. This has been the unfortunate experience with the neutraceutical industry in which commercial interests have touted the cognition sparing benefits of herbal and other supplements and remedies in the absence of sound supporting scientific data.

However, with these cautions in mind, the opportunities for offering valid hope to protect our cognitive functions and strengthen our cognitive weaknesses as we age remains very promising as the understanding of neuroplasticity, brain reserve and cognitive reserve continues to evolve.