March 15, 2004
Have you heard the expression, "Use it or lose it"? When
it comes to your brain, scientists seem to think that may be the
is this: if individuals engage in mental activities such as solving
crossword puzzles, solving mathematical problems, writing creatively.
And if you do that on a regular basis, that kind of activity appears
to have a protective effect against Alzheimer's disease. The specific
kind of mental activity thats associated with that protection
has not been worked out and is the subject of further research.'"
Since playing math games
may not be your first choice for fun, there are other ways to keep
your brain active.
"US researchers claim
taking part in a lot of leisure activities, such as visiting friends
or relatives can reduce a person's risk of developing [Alzheimer's
disease] by as much as 38%. Reading a book or magazine, seeing a
movie or going for a walk are also activities which may help, they
say....The US study backs up previous research which suggested mental
and physical activity may help prevent Alzheimer's disease....Over
seven years, researchers looked at how often they participated in
13 common leisure activities which were classed as intellectual,
physical or social....Comparing those who developed dementia with
those who did not showed that those people who had high leisure
activities were 38% less likely to develop dementia....And each
activity people participated in was linked to an additional 8% reduction
If Alzheimer's seems like
something in the distant future that you'll never have to worry
about, then think of some ways this knowledge can help you--or someone
you love--right now. Could you encourage your parents or grandparents
to take time for a hobby they have always enjoyed--or maybe help
them find a new one? Do they have skills that you would like to
learn? Do you have any skills that you could share with them? Planning
for the future is important, and it's good to think about the health
of others, but what about your health and life right now. Does any
of this brain stretching help people under the age of forty?
Hong Kong have found children who are given musical training have
better verbal memories than those who have not had lessons....All
the children were given verbal memory tests, to see how many words
they recalled from a list, and a visual memory test for images.
Those students who had been given music lessons recalled significantly
more words than the untrained students, and generally learned more
words with each subsequent test....And the longer the boys had been
receiving music lessons, the better their verbal memory was as well.
However, no differences were found in visual memory between the
groups. The researchers suggest music lessons stimulate the left
side of the brain, which also controls verbal learning."
Have you always wanted
to join a band? Do you need reason to socialize? Maybe you've always
wanted to learn to carve, paint, knit, or even juggle...
circus entertainers and clowns: they can all juggle. Neuroscientists
are now getting into the juggling act. Brain researchers at the
University of Regensburg (Germany) have found that learning to juggle
can change brain structure....These data suggest that learning new
skills can alter brain structure. However, it is unclear what exactly
caused the brain changes. The expansion in the two brain areas may
have been caused by an increase in the number of nerve cells, glial
cells or synapses. Further research may provide therapies for people
who have brain damage. For example, it may be possible to design
an exercise program to target a specific area of the brain to repair
damage and restore function."
Even if you aren't recovering
from a brain injury, your brain can still benefit from an exercise
program. While some people enjoy crossword puzzles, and others like
calculus, neither of these may be your first choice. What's fun
Questions of the Week:
When was the last time you did something fun that was good for you?
Is there a new skill you've been wanting to learn? Is there a craft
or hobby you keep meaning to start? Stretch you brain; think about
it: what do you enjoy? In what ways can you encourage your friends,
siblings, parents and/or grandparents to explore their interests
and exercise their brains, as well?
***Please don't forget:
I want to hear from you!***
Students (and teachers), now is your chance to share your ideas,
hints, tips, suggestions, and even lesson plans. For more details,
you can access a copy of the Question of the Week from March
1, 2004, at: http://www.accessexcellence.org/HE/qow/qow03/qow040301.php
Please note: While the deadline to send in ideas was originally
Tuesday, March 16, 2004, I understand that this has conflicted with
the Spring Break schedules of several schools. If you (or your students)
need a couple extra days to get things sent, please email me. Thank
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum