Volunteers Welcome

Volunteering Keeps Your Mind Sharp

Just-published research in the Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences shows that volunteering and similar social activities are helpful in staving off mental decline in later years, and can actually improve cognition:

Tutoring children as part of a volunteer service program helped older women delay or reverse declining brain function, according to a new study that suggests aging brains benefit from mentally stimulating social activities.

Older women who participated in a volunteer service program called Experience Corps saw significant increases after six months in brain activity in regions important to cognitive function, including the the anterior cingulate cortex (P<0.003), left dorsal prefrontal cortex (P<0.04), and left ventral prefrontal cortex (P<0.01), researchers reported in the December Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

“Individuals exhibited use-dependent neural plasticity by exercising and reactivating skills that may have been relatively unused for years or even decades,” Michelle C. Carlson, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, and colleagues wrote. [From MedPageToday - Volunteering Keeps Older Minds Sharp by Chris Emery.]

So, if you are concerned about staying sharp despite the natural aging process, skip the crossword puzzles and sudoku, and put that energy to use in a way that helps others, too: volunteer!

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