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Use it or shed It: Redefining one Old Idea By Ian M. McDonough, PhD Today"s Geriatric Medicine Vol. 9 No. 3 P. 5

People space living much longer lives 보다 ever before due mostly to far better nutrition and health care. Special, life expectancy in the United says is approximated to be 81 years in women and 76 years in men,1 representing an increase by as much as 12 years over the past 50 years.2 in spite of this exceptional feat of our wellness care, the price of age-related illness such together Alzheimer"s disease also has actually increased, becoming the sixth leading cause of death.3 Thus, a typical goal because that geriatricians and the aging populace is to better understand just how we can keep intact the mental abilities of older adults. One popular adage that has guided references to older adult is "use that or lose it," definition that one need to continually communicate in and practice an ability or risk losing it. Practicing a physical skill such as basketball or golf plainly leads to improved performance. Yet does this adage apply to psychological abilities together well?

Use the or lose It: myth or Fact? The "use that or shed it" viewpoint makes a many intuitive sense. Sustaining this claim, recent developments in brain science have listed clear proof that the brain continuously shrinks and expands relying on our experiences.4 In addition, plenty of consumer commodities have been produced to take advantage of the concept of training the brain to keep it functioning optimally. The score of these mental or brain-training program is to exercise core mental abilities such together reacting quickly, remembering, and also problem fixing in the paper definition of the games. Recently, however, the Federal trade Commission issued a warning that the rise in brain-training gamings has resulted in fraudulent claims that have actually "preyed on consumers" fears." one of the biggest companies, Lumosity, has even been issued a $50 million penalty for harming consumers. This strike on brain-training games can come as a surprised to part people, however in fact, little scientific evidence exists to support the advantage of brain-training games or the "use that or lose it" philosophy much more generally.5

One reason these brain-training games could be problematic is that they focus on specific an abilities in those games. As a result, those skills are not likely to generalize to particular "untrained" an abilities ignored through the games, no one to daily tasks.6 rather than training a particular ability, a more promising technique might be to interact in an everyday task the is facility and because of this utilizes many an easy mental processes. This broad types of engagement could not only enhance multiple mental processes but likewise generalize come other day-to-day tasks. A 2nd reason because that the brain-training failures could be a absence of novelty and also flexibility. The variety of different games within each routine is limited, causing boredom or fast mastery, which in turn can lower their potential effectiveness. Assuming the boredom or rapid mastery does not occur, enlarge adults are still mostly on their very own to find out the games, motivate us to continue playing the games, and breakthrough to brand-new levels.

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To reach your potential, part older adults could need much more guidance, hand-operated training, and also feedback. Without this aids, older adults could lose interest and also stop playing. Thus, if the "use that or lose it" adage may have merits, civilization have taken that as fact without the important scientific proof to accordingly inform geriatricians or the aging population.

Testing the benefits of Cognitive Engagement The Synapse Project has actually recently seek to test a brand-new model of cognitive engagement that might overcome several of the limitations of brain-training games.7 In the Synapse Project, more than 200 older adults were randomly assigned to high- or low- difficulty engagement groups. Some older adults learned a new skill such together digital photography or quilting, if others to be assigned to groups that did not require learning a new skill, such together engaging in society meetings or solitary tasks such as solving crossword puzzles. Among the an essential requirements because that the skill-learning groups was that the individuals had to it is in novices in that ability to enter the program.

The regimen was collection up like a proceeding education program; participants involved in structured learning about 15 hrs per week and also were assigned jobs of increasing an obstacle throughout the program. Before and also after the 14-week program, the participants were tested top top various psychological abilities including processing speed, episodic memory, and reasoning. The key finding was the older adults that learned a brand-new skill showed big improvements in episodic memory ability, and subtle renovations in handling speed and reasoning abilities loved one to the team who socialized or involved in solitary activities. While the digital photography group showed the best gains, gains likewise were discovered in the quilting group, saying that the exact activity did no matter. Furthermore, the tasks in i m sorry the attendees engaged throughout the intervention were very different indigenous the tasks that were offered to evaluate their mental abilities. This difference suggests that the an abilities learned during the program generalised to brand-new tasks—a trouble with the brain-training games.

Supporting these findings, a follow-up research trained a team of older adult to use a computer tablet for 15 hrs per week end a 12-week period.8 as with the former study, attendees were forced to find out a brand-new skill, having had little or no prior experience. Transparent the program, the older adult were taught how to usage the tablet, and also each mainly they to be presented through a various theme of activities. Because that instance, one template was Connectivity and Social Networking, whereby they learned how to use Twitter and Facebook, upload photos, and play gamings that use social networks together platforms, such as Words through Friends (a different of Scrabble). An additional theme to be Health and also Finance, wherein participants learned to use apps that listed health details and enabled them to track different types of finances. In this study, enlarge adults also were experiment on psychological abilities before and also after the program. Adhering to the intervention, entrants showed huge gains in memory and also speed abilities, simply as in the initial Synapse Project.

Brain Scans Assess services of Cognitive Engagement In the Synapse Project, a subset of older adult received mind scans before and also after the intervention.9 The an ideas for doing for this reason was the such broad engagement might enhance a range of psychological abilities, and brain imaging might assist the researchers know the certain pathways that were enhanced. Following the intervention, larger adults showed enhanced mind activity in a frontal-parietal mind network involved in payment attention and problem solving. Those individuals who had the largest mind gains likewise were the ones who invested the most time on their projects and showed the best benefits in memory performance. However, the brain gains began showing decreases one year ~ the intervention.

These findings have three necessary implications. First, they imply that the factor for the enhancements in memory was likely because of enhancements in attention, i m sorry is a crucial component of storing and retrieving information. Second, the brain network showing improvements overlapped through a network the is known to decrease in old age, arguing that large level engagement may have partially restored brain activity to a younger state. Lastly, as soon as older adults stopped the program, the brain gains slowly started to go back to their original state, suggesting that continued engagement in novel activities might be crucial to preserve the mind enhancements.

What walk the Synapse task Teach Us? Cognitive engagement can help maintain cognition in enlarge adults, supporting the "use that or shed it" notion, however how it is applied matters.

• The form of task matters. Learning skills benefited larger adults much more than solving crossword puzzles and also socializing. In the digital photography group, participants to be asked to learn how to run a computer, use progressed software to modify photos, and also learn the functions of all the controls on a digital camera. Discovering these an abilities required payment close attention to the instructor, memorizing specific operations and how to carry out them, and figuring the end the next creative shot. Furthermore, every one of these skills were placed to the test repeatedly as they to be assigned new projects. Because that this reason, while acquisition a proceeding education course to learn a new domain that knowledge have the right to be fun, getting knowledge in a brand-new content area may not be as advantageous to simple mental abilities as is learning a brand-new skill.

• novelty matters. The activities focused on an abilities that to be novel to the attendees in the study. This new helped produce an effortful learning environment that forced older adult to expend large degrees of psychological energy, sustain concentrated attention (as confirmed by the brain findings), and also strengthen an abilities that were rusty. The idea below is that if a task becomes also familiar, it will become an ext routine and also automatic, and also therefore use less of their psychological abilities, consisting of attention.

For instance, steering a vehicle was very daunting when we very first got right into the driver"s seat. Us pressed the brake also hard and we had difficulty paying attention to everything approximately us (all if listening to family or friend instruct us as they held tight v frightened expressions on their faces). Eventually, driving came to be so expert that us barely needed to emphasis our fist on the road, and also even learned come eat when listening with ease to music and family. That is at this suggest that the same psychological abilities space no much longer being used and also a new skill have to be learned. Unfortunately, as human being age they encounter fewer of this novel opportunities and are an ext likely to kind regular and also familiar routines.10 This mix of under novel life experience and more routinized schedules stays clear of the strengthening and also facilitation of some abilities, particularly after retirement. Thus, older adults need to go out of their method to endure novel and an overwhelming activities.

• having an instructor matters. The activities were guided by an instructor. Finding out a new skill have the right to be frustrating and also difficult. Finding out a new skill is also more an overwhelming when one make the efforts to discover alone. Through an instructor these difficulties were minimized by starting slowly and learning straightforward skills. Then as the participants master the straightforward skills, they progressively learned more advanced skills. This gradual learning experience created scaffolds of expertise that to be reinforced with the hands-on help from the instructor come ensure the everyone received the aid they needed. Together the appropriate timing and feedback have the right to enhance an ideas and assist achieve higher mastery the the skill.

• Sustained difficulty matters. while the Synapse task showed intensified cognition and brain function by the end of the program, the benefits started to go back to their beginning point ~ one year. If studies should be carried out to test the long-term impacts of together programs, this findings indicate that continued exposure come novel and difficult environments is essential to keep cognitive and mind benefits. Among the tricks, as previously alluded to, is the older adults must continuously preserve an awareness of brand-new opportunities, specifically once the current collection of activities becomes familiar. Thus, the finest habit to type is the habit of finding new difficult activities in which to come to be involved.

Can finding out Novel Skills hold-up Dementia? The reality is us don"t recognize whether finding out novel an abilities can delay dementia. Correlational researches have linked self-reported cognitive engagement through a decreased risk of emerging Alzheimer"s disease11 and a decreased accumulation of beta-amyloid, a precursor the Alzheimer"s disease.12 However, regulated intervention studies like the Synapse Project have not yet been carried out to causally check whether an overwhelming cognitive engagement leader to a hold-up or prevention of dementia. Nevertheless, the Synapse Project says that finding out novel and difficult skills can be neuroprotective and also should be recommended as a kind of lifestyle readjust along with increases in exercise and a palliation of cardiovascular risk determinants to protect against the onset of dementia. Evidence from studies favor the Synapse Project suggests that the renowned "use that or lose it" adage does use to mental abilities when used in crucial ways.

— Ian M. McDonough, PhD, is one assistant professor in ~ the college of Alabama and an associate of the Alabama research study Institute on Aging. His research focuses on memory and also the advance of behavior and brain markers to understand and also predict healthy and also pathological aging.

References 1. Worldwide health observatory data repository: life span — data by country. Civilization Health company website. Http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.688?lang=en

2. Life tables. Center for condition Control and also Prevention website. Http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/products/life_tables.htm. To update December 8, 2015.

3. Alzheimer"s Association. 2015 Alzheimer"s an illness facts and also figures. Http://www.alz.org/facts/downloads/facts_figures_2015.pdf. Released 2015.

4. Boyke J, Driemeyer J, Gaser C, Büchel C, may A. Training-induced mind structure transforms in the elderly. J Neurosci. 2008;28(28):7031-7035.

5. Salthouse TA. Mental exercise and also mental aging: assessing the validity of the "use the or shed it" hypothesis. Perspect Psychol Sci. 2006;1(1):68-87.

6. Sphere K, Berch DB, Helmers KF, et al. Impacts of cognitive maintain interventions through older adults: a randomized regulated trial. JAMA. 2002;288(18):2271-2281.

7. Park DC, Lodi-Smith J, drew L, et al. The affect of continual engagement on cognitive function in older adults: the Synapse Project. Psychol Sci. 2014;25(1):103-112.

8. Chan MY, Haber S, attracted LM, Park DC. Cultivate older adults to use tablet computer computers: does it enhance cognitive function? . Gerontologist. Pii: #gnu057.

9. McDonough IM, Haber S, Bischof GN, Park DC. The Synapse Project: engagement in mentally an overwhelming activities enhances neural efficiency. Restor Neurol Neurosci. 2015;33(6):865-882.

10. Boy name M, Park DC. The Martin and also Park environmental Demands (MPED) Questionnaire: psychometric nature of a short instrument to measure self-reported ecological demands. Aging Clin Exp Res. 2003;15(1):77-82.

11. Wilson RS, Mendes De Leon CF, Barnes LL, et al. Authorized in cognitively stimulating activities and risk of incident Alzheimer disease. JAMA. 2002;287(6):742-748.

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12. Landau SM, clues SM, Mormino EC, et al. Combination of life time cognitive engagement and low β-amyloid deposition. Arch Neurol. 2012;69(5):623-629.