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


Dementia is a syndrome of acquired and persistent decline in memory and other realms of cognitive performance leading to functional disability. The most common cause of dementia is AD, accounting for approximately 50–75% of all cases.[2] However, postmortem studies suggest that many cases are in fact 'mixed dementia', a combination of AD and vascular dementia. It is widely believed that cerebrovascular disease is the second most common cause of dementia (vascular dementia). Other causes include dementia with Lewy bodies, frontotemporal dementia, trauma, metabolic abnormalities, nutritional deficiencies and infections of the CNS. A host of studies have demonstrated that dementia owing to AD may be prevented by cognitive stimulation, engagement in leisure activities, level of work complexity and educational attainment.

Whether these three states of cognitive function lie along a continuum remains to be elucidated. However, research demonstrates that linear and nonlinear changes in various cognitive domains, including verbal memory and fluency, visuospatial abilities and psychomotor speed, precede a diagnosis of MCI and dementia by several years.[9,10] Thus, if states of cognitive function do follow a continuum, at what point is brain structure and function malleable?