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  • Writer's pictureSutra Institute SIBS

Conquer the Aging of Brain through Cognitive Reserve

The human race is living in one of it’s healthiest periods in the recorded history. The increase in standard of life and the progress in medical science has ensured that the average life expectancy is 71 years. However, this has also brought in several mental health challenges. Diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis attack our brain cells and make our lives difficult. Environment and behavior, among other things, shape our brains in the younger years. These factors become all the more important in the later years of our life.

In a study in 1980, researchers found that people with pathology of Alzheimer’s disease did not show signs of dementia (memory loss) or cognitive loss. The explanation was, that these individuals had larger cognitive or brain reserve to arrest the cognitive loss. Since the other brain areas of these individuals were well exercised and capable, they took over the task of diseased neural tissues that had degenerated! Other researches have also confirmed that the people with greater cognitive reserve are better able to withstand the symptoms of the degenerative changes in the brain.

What is this cognitive reserve? Cognitive reserve, as the name suggests, is the astonishing capacity of the brain to find an alternate way to get the job done. Think of the brain like a cricket team; where you have specialized batsmen to score the runs for the team and bowlers to take wickets. But when specialized batsman get out early, the responsibility to score runs is borne out by the all-rounders (players who can bat and bowl both ). Those players might be termed as the batting reserve of that cricketing team. This is how the brain operates!

A happy and social brain is a healthy brain! Cognitive exercises like reading a book, learning a new language, solving crosswords, learning new skills, being socially active and outgoing, having a purpose in life, breathing exercises and meditation, being conscientious, having faith help towards arresting the loss of cognition. Regular physical exercise and healthy diet also help. On the contrary, loneliness, anxiety, depression, stress, being asocial, not having a purpose or passion in life, smoking, drinking work as the negative factors for rapid cognitive decline.

Aging is inevitable but cognitive loss or mental decline is optional. By making a few behavioral and life style changes, this cognitive loss can be arrested. We can gift ourselves a healthy, independent and even productive old age. Cheers to this wonderful seat of human identity – called brain!

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