Brain Exercises Speed Up Dementia Progress?

| by Kate Wharmby Seldman

A newly published study has found that brain exercises - such as crossword puzzles - can delay the onset of dementia. However, once dementia has set in, the same exercises may speed up the disease's progress.

The study, published in the September 1 issue of "Neurology," examines patients who engage in mentally stimulating activities like reading and listening to the radio. Even though these patients' brains may be developing lesions that are associated with dementia, their increased mental activity somehow prevents these lesions from having much of an effect on their cognitive functioning.

Once these patients are diagnosed with dementia, however, their brain function decreases at a higher rate than those patients who didn't participate in brain exercises. This seems a cruel side effect of keeping one's brain active, but study author Robert S. Wilson, Ph.D., says it actually "reduces the overall amount of time a person may suffer from dementia." While the decline may be more precipitous, then, at least it's shorter.