Group 53: Can mental exercise prevent Alzheimer's Disease?

Can mental exercise prevent Alzheimer’s disease?


This image is a visual comparison of the human brain with(right side) and without(left side) Alzheimer's disease.
Alzheimer's Association. "Healthy Brain Versus Alzheimer's Brain." Alzheimer's Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Apr. 2014.

What is Alzheimer’s disease?

The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease as it is a form of 64% of all dementias in Canada. This illness is a gradual degenerative disease that occurs within the cells of the brain and causes brain tissue damage. The brains neurons create a chemical that destroys the connection between other nerve- cells. Without this connection, these brain cells deteriorate and completely die off. With the lack of neurons present in the brain the effects take place starting with short term memory loss and continue to grow in succession which will in turn contribute to poor language skills, behavioural changes, lack of judgment and intellectual function overall. All of these effects can be proven to be fatal. Those who develop and often experience the unfortunate disease are often of old age. The most common age that individuals are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s is 65 and over. Although this disease is found in people in their older years, it is not a normal sign of aging.

A brief virtual video clip of what happens to the brain as it develops Alzheimer's disease is cited below.

AlzheimerUniversal. "Inside the Brain: Unraveling the Mystery of Alzheimer's Disease [HQ]." YouTube. YouTube, 29 July 2010. Web. 05 Apr. 2014.

What is mental exercise?

Bodily or mental exertion, especially for the sake of training or improvement of health.

Mental Capacity
Sufficient understanding and memory to comprehend in a general way the situation in which one finds oneself and the nature, purpose, and consequence of any act or transaction into which one proposes to enter.

What causes Alzheimer's disease?

Unknown cause, but researchers have identified risk factors such as aging, genetics, diet, lifestyle, and education level.

Living with Alzheimer’s disease

Patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s experience many challenges in their daily lives. Since it is a progressive disease, the signs and symptoms worsen over time. Contrary to popular belief, Alzheimer’s is not actually related to aging, as the early onset of the disease occurs in people from the age of 40. A number of signs and symptoms show the onset of the disease. The ten most common sings of Alzheimer’s are:

Memory loss that disrupts daily life
Challenges in planning or solving problems
Difficulty completing tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
Confusion with time or place
Trouble understanding visual images or spatial relationships
New problems with words in speaking or writing
Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
Decreased or poor judgment
Withdrawal from work or social activities
Changes in mood or personality

Patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s face difficulty in completing daily activities such as being able to maintain a schedule or managing money. As the disease progresses, patients may need assistance in performing daily tasks such as bathing, cooking and going to the bathroom. Caregivers, in the form of family members or nurses, assist the patients in these tasks. As their mental state deteriorates, patients with Alzheimer’s exhibit certain behaviours, which are characteristic of the disease. Some of these behaviours are:


Since Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, the behaviours of the patient change with each stage. In the early stages, patients can expect to have minimal changes in behaviour and function. It may appear that they do not have dementia to outsiders, as they are able to function normally for the most part. These early stages can last for several years.

The middle stages of Alzheimer’s last the longest and require a greater level of care than in the early stages. The patient will have trouble remembering information, have several mood swings, and engage in behaviours that are not typical for them. Patients have trouble expressing thoughts and perform routine tasks.

The final stage of Alzheimer’s requires the most care of all three stages, as this is the stage where the patient is unable to take care of themselves in any way, thus requiring around the clock care. In the late stages, the patient has difficulty eating or swallowing, needs assistance in moving about, need full time help with personal care, is vulnerable to infections and cannot communicate with words.

General effects of mental exercise on brain function

Salthouse explains in his study that it is widely believed that keeping mentally active will prevent age-related mental decline. With age, cognitive functioning naturally seems to deteriorate with time as it decreases stimulation function within the brain and brain activity in itself. Mental stimulation and brain activity significantly decreases during old age but studies have shown that there is in fact a positive correlation between level of brain activity and cognitive functioning. Adults of all ages have immediate beneficial effects on their mental capacity to perform on specific trained tasks and understand concepts and problems. There is no evidence on the other hand that mental stimuli has any harmful effects on cognitive functioning of individuals as activities and constant stimulation of brain increases activity which also may aid in the benefits of a healthier lifestyle and quality of life overall keeping individuals engaged in life.

Effects of mental exercise on Alzheimer’s disease (any relevant research)*

Evidence has not yet been found that if, in fact, mental exercise can prevent Alzheimer Disease, however Gatz takes the approach that “ it won’t hurt”. Physicians believe that mental exercise moderates the risk of Alzheimer’s as it provides us a cognitive stimulus. By encouraging adults to spend time engaging in activities like crossword puzzles, anagrams, completing figural logic puzzles, and other challenging activities can all help improve and sharpen their reaction times, positively engage parts of the brain that work with improving the long and short term memory storage and have them actively thinking. Going against criticism that mental exercise will not reduce the chances of the disease, the approach that there is no negative to this non -medicated prescription is taken. Positive effects that include the in-targeted skills that coincide with being challenging and a fun activity is the only “side-effect” to this method against Alzheimer.

Founding evidence in randomized clinical trials, neurobiology and epidemiological studies; Gatz explains how mental exercise has been determined to be a solution in the long run. Epidemiological studies show a two to four times higher chance of the disease in adults in comparison to people with a higher education. As important, the participation in leisurely activities like sports can also help reduce/ moderate Alzheimer. The neurobiology studies that were completed on animals explore the increased stimulation of the brain creates greater brain complexity with higher levels of mental activities. The greater the neural complexity observed in a subject is found as a reaction to the enriched environment that provided the subjects with various stimulates. Finally, the randomized clinical trials support the idea that by building on memory with cognitive exercises and feedback-based exercises also limit the possibilities of Alzheimer’s in the later adult. Gatz concludes that although there is hardly evidence to determine that yes, mental exercise can prevent the development of Alzheimer, we can conclude that there is greater evidence that those who do engage in mentally stimulated exercises in their earlier stages of life will have better odds against the disease. The role of genetics is to be considered, as this too will be a large determinant in the development of the disease.

Physical activity to reduce Alzheimer’s disease?

The association between physical activity and Alzheimer has been concluded to be a positive one in relation to the reduction risk of Alzheimer in the later stages of an adult’s life. Epidemiological, cross-sectional and interventional studies exam the casual relationship between physical activity and brain volume. Higher participation in physical activity correlated to the reduced risk of Alzheimer in later years. Using methods of randomized interventions with neuroimaging tools and longitudinal studies have conveyed that participation in physical activity increase the size of the hippocampal and prefrontal areas of the brain. The higher the level of activity is, the larger these areas of the brain are. Conclusively, the regions of the brain that begin to decline in cognitive skills in relation to age increase in strength with the added participation in physical activity.

Benefits of mental exercise?

Mental health is as important as physical health. Mental fitness is crucial to an optimal life as it improves the quality of living. These benefits can improve state of happiness and help gain fulfillment in daily living. Benefits of mental health can help with coping skills, reduction of anxiety/ stress, and the ability in learning and basic wants such as enjoyment in life.

Best forms of prevention

Is mental exercise the only form of prevention?

Many scientists and researchers are studying ways to prevent and abolish Alzheimer’s disease due to its increase in popularity among the elderly. Age, genetics, environment, and lifestyle are all linked to this disease and controlled changes may help prevent or delay the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Age and genetics are two inevitable factors that are linked to cognitive decline. The presence of the gene APOE ε4 and the increase in age are associated with an increase in risk of the mental disease but it is not the only reason for the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Many studies have recently shown ways to delay the disease and cognitive decline, although more research must be done. Cognitive training is one suggestion that may help lower the chances of developing Alzheimer’s disease but unfortunately, mental exercise alone will not abolish the chances of development. Controlling one’s diet, engaging in physical activity and the absence of other chronic diseases play significant roles in preventing or delaying the development of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline. One study has shown mental exercise lowering the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 47%. This information is enlightening and may help many people lower their risk but unfortunately cognitive training will not prevent and demolish this disease for everyone. A healthy active brain is shown to have a lower chance of this disease which must be achieved through a variety of things, not just mental exercise. Following a healthy diet plan, consuming resveratrol which is a compound found in grapes, engaging in physically activity, living without chronic diseases, and cognitive training are all proven to protect the brain and decrease risks of Alzheimer’s disease. Although cognitive training is seen to lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, it should not be seen as the only method in doing so. There are many other ways to achieve the same goal, including combining mental exercise with other healthy activities.

When is the best time to start cognitive stimulation?

Dr. Bernard Croisile is a well-known neurologist and neuropsychologist in France that is a co-founder of Happyneuron Inc.. Croisile, along with a team of neurologists and neuroscientists, created this company in 2000 based on direct experiences with patients and clients. This small video clip allows him to explain some knowledge of brain stimulation and its effects on Alzheimer’s disease.

Developing new neurons and connections between neurons inside the brain is a proven way to help prevent many cognitive declines that are associated with age. Living a cognitive stimulating lifestyle will help postpone Alzheimer’s disease and other mental illnesses associated with age. There is no known cure to this disease but delaying the development is possible. This can be done by having a good education as well as a good profession. Through education, sports, social relationships, and new games, your brain is constantly being stimulated which develops new neurons and may significantly help delay Alzheimer’s disease. In order to have the best protection against Alzheimer’s disease, stimulation of the brain should occur at the youngest possible age. Having 10 years of brain stimulation is more beneficial than 5 years simply due to the development and increase in brain neurons. Therefore, combining physical activity with education and a positive lifestyle is a proven strategy in delaying the development of Alzheimer’s disease because incorporating a variety of factors will stimulate the brain as a whole resulting in more neurons.

The research of Alzheimer’s disease is relatively new which is why there is still no known cause to this state of cognitive decline. Many studies show ways to lower the risk and delay the development of the disease, but unfortunately there is no acknowledged cure. Mental exercise and physical activity are two studied methods used for fighting against the pathological changes that cause Alzheimer’s disease. They are both helpful in creating a healthy brain and a cognitive reserve which may delay symptoms. Cognitive training refers to a lifelong commitment of education and mental activity. Presence in school and learning programs is shown to have benefits in regards to delaying Alzheimer’s disease. Margaret Gatz conducted a study composed of 109 set of twins where one developed dementia while the other did not. The twin that developed dementia was significantly less educated. Many scientists and researchers agree that it all comes down to the wiring and biological mechanisms that defend the brain from certain diseases. Genes are the initial driving force to the development of Alzheimer’s disease but it is likely that diet and lifestyle are also influential factors. Therefore, keeping active, mentally and physically, along with making smart lifestyle choices, beginning at a young age, are ways to delay and avoid the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Current and up to date news on Alzheimer’s disease.

The current development of Alzheimer’s disease is to cure the early-stages of the disease and to find out a way to know if an individual has Alzheimer’s disease in advance. According to the article “Regulatory Innovation and Drug Development for Early-Stage Alzheimer’s Disease” it states that drugs have to be proven in order for it to work but it can’t be done since there’s no way of measuring on whether the patient has any symptoms of early-stage of Alzheimer’s disease. Brain plaques are what Alzheimer’s disease is and it primarily consists of B-amyloid peptide. The unusual production and stress of B-amyloid peptide is the main target that many drug companies aim to help through development of newer drugs. After the Alzheimer’s disease Assessment Scale (ADAS) of 1984, the two decades after developed an assessment that showed the identification of Alzheimer’s disease in order to determine positive clinical phenotypes. Being staged as “moderate” dementia now, would have been considered to be as “mild” dementia twenty years ago. Determining to see if an individual has Alzheimer’s disease at an early stage provides optimal benefit to initiate treatment. The original cholinergic hypothesis, an example, from end-stage Alzheimer’s disease patients was based on neuropathological material. Simple cholinergic hypofunction may not be a feature of the initial stage since Alzheimer’s disease is diagnosed at an earlier stage. The current status of Alzheimer’s disease is needed in order to understand the future of drug development. Alzheimer’s disease is expected to triple in the coming decades through the source of immense societal cost. There are still drastic improvements that are made in order to treat and maybe even prevent Alzheimer’s disease. The field pursues new treatments and new improvements in diagnosis. Through the preclinical identification and initiation of disease-slowing treatments, these two arenas will delay the onset of this debilitating disorder. Delaying Alzheimer’s disease onset by 5 years will reduce the total number of cases by half, which would be a successful development of an agent. Delaying the onset for 10 years would be essentially eradicated for an agent.

A note to the writer,

We hope the research we've gathered will help you on the basis of your research with mental exercise and the effects it has on Alzheimer's disease. We have determined a positive relationship between both mental exercise and the development of Alzheimer, as well as how physical activity and education also play a beneficial role in the disease. Please feel free to contact us with further inquiries at ac.ukroy|35hcraeser#ac.ukroy|35hcraeser.

Your Research Staff 53,
Julian, Kriti, Edil, Aleena & Janaane


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