‘Is it true that doing puzzles or crosswords won’t prevent metal decline’, asked James, talking to me earlier this week on Transworld Radio. (A good, well-balanced station – worth listening to.) He was referring to a news item in the media that day.
The answer, say the experts is no, they won’t prevent mental decline. Brain training games do what they say – they train in the techniques of the game, but they don’t boost cognition. (Though some say that games that train in shape recognition and spatial awareness can help, because they also help cognition.)
So what is meant by ‘cognition’? Cognition, says the dictionary, is ‘the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses.’
At the risk of inflaming debate, that’s what I’d call ‘the mind’. And there’s strong evidence for ‘the mind’ being much more than the physical part of us we call the brain. For example, there’s still no medical explanation as to how someone whose brain is very damaged by dementia can suddenly come back to themselves for a little while. It’s like seeing someone emerge through the fog, and it’s not uncommon.
The experts say that we should develop a high level of cognition as early in life as possible, so that we have a reserve to see us through in old age. We do this through learning, reading, and in relationship with others.
How to boost cognition in later life?
First – enjoy the company of others as often as you can. Experts such as Professor Robin Dunbar, anthropologist at Oxford University, insists that our social interactions are more important than anything else. Our brains light up with synaptic connections more when we are face to face than when we are reading, or learning, and definitely more than our screen time.
Second – consider our Brain & Soul Boosting for Seniors programme. They do what they say on the cover. Group leaders give us such positive evaluations. The sequence of each session encourages engagement, affirmation, and building on participants’ life experiences to unpacking the Scriptures.
Thirdly – discover how sticking to a handful of key practices reduced the onset of dementia by 64% in the men living in a Welsh valley. Google ‘Caerphilly Study, BBC) and up comes a very readable report, with photographs.
Most importantly, we’d all benefit if we simply did what the Bible tells says – to renew the spirit of our minds. (There’s a good link here: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/the-renewed-mind-and-how-to-have-it .) (Ephesians 4:23)
There’s so much stress and chaos in life today, and stress induces an inflammatory process that is now being researched as a cause of dementia.