We’ve noticed a recurring theme in recent brain health scientific studies called “speed of processing”. Adults with faster information processing capability seem less susceptible to various forms of dementia including Alzheimer’s disease. We’ve previously discussed some of these studies; most were focused on selected groups of individuals such as older adults. Further, those studies typically concentrated on brain parts known to play a critical role in memory formation and fast response, usually the fornix and the hippocampus, parts of the limbic system.
Does White Matter Matter?
Researchers at Tohoku University in Sendai Japan have taken a different approach with their analysis. They performed a large study of healthy young adults to understand if the overall amount of white matter in the brain was associated with faster processing speed. White matter is bundles of axons which connect various gray matter areas to each other and to the spinal cord. In our “Vegetables and Video Games” post, we noted that, individuals with faster processing speed have lower risk of dementia, either from resistance, or brain “rewiring” around tau and amyloid damage. Specifically, measured over a ten-year span, a 29% lower risk.
The Tohoku University study, led by Associate Professor of Developmental Cognitive Science Hikaru Takeuchi, PhD and by Daniele Magistro, PhD, now a Research Associate at Loughborough University. The research report noted that: “Processing speed is considered a key cognitive resource and it has a crucial role in all types of cognitive performance”. The study found a positive correlation between the volume of white matter and processing speed, measured at the whole brain level. White matter volume in individual brain regions seemed to matter less than overall volume.
Build a Faster Brain; Work at Peak Throughout Life
If we combine the work from Tohoku University, the Indiana University study on brain training videos, and the “Super Mario” study at Montreal University and The University of Newfoundland, we can make an important judgement call. Playing video games with increasing levels of difficulty that require spatial reasoning, and learning new activities that require fine motor skills and concentration such as learning to ride a bike or play guitar, will build a thicker hippocampus, faster fornix and more white matter. All things promise better cognitive performance at any age, as well as some defense against dementia. I.E. – a Bigger Brain!
We’re not in the video game business, but we are in the heart-and-brain-healthy exercise business and the good-night’s sleep business (when your brain organizes memories).
If your 2018 goals include getting in better shape, please consider one of our travel-friendly exercise kits. We’ll throw-in one of our silk sleep masks – a $7.99 value- for free.
We wish you health, prosperity and a Bigger Brain in 2018!
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