Dementia Prevention: researchers examine links to brain training, mindfulness. A study is being conducted to assess whether brain training or mindfulness strategies can prevent the onset of brain diseases like dementia.

The study participants are connected to a special electroencephalogram cap (EEG) which uses electrodes to measure brain activity. They are then asked to participate in one of two events. The first is a computer-based program that challenges the participant’s attention and cognitive abilities. The second is a mindfulness program. Mindfulness is described as a meditative state in which the participant focuses on being aware of the moment they are in, while calmly acknowledging any feelings sensations and thoughts they may be experiencing.

Monitoring participants brain waves

The study, which lasts eight weeks, seeks to determine which areas of the brain are most active during these activities. Throughout the session, carefully positioned and colour coded electrodes measure the participant’s neural activity by the millisecond. The orange electrodes located at the front of the cap record the brain activity that is associated with the cognitive area of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex. The yellow electrodes located along the sides of the EEG cap correspond with activity in the temporal lobe. This area is known to be associated with the language center of the brain and is responsible, among other things, verbal function.

Prevention is better than cure

We know that attention and memory slow as age progresses. This progression is a known natural process. Researchers in this study are interested in finding out what can be done to slow or stop this process. If successful, the long-term goal, says researchers, is to put together an intervention plan that can be applied to the wider population.

“The overall purpose of the body of research we are doing is to put together a treatment intervention program which we can use to prevent people moving towards dementia as they get older,” says Ben Isbel, Researcher at the Sunshine Coast Mind and Neuroscience Thompson Institute at the University of the Sunshine Coast

Currently, there is no cure. However, there is the possibility of prevention. Therefore it is most productive, at this time to focus on that. Mr. Isbel stresses that his research indicates that we have a “cognitive reserve.” We can build this reserve up over time. The better reserve we have, the more protection we have against dementia.

Minimising stress

Stress appears to be one of the biggest factors in draining the cognitive reserve. When someone at risk for dementia experiences stress, there is an immediate decline in their cognitive state.

Other ways to prevent dementia

While the study mentioned in this article is ongoing, The National Health Service in the UK, advises these methods to help to avoid dementia.

Eat a healthy diet

Limiting salt, observing a balanced, low-fat, high-fibre diet that includes fish, a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains may help reduce the risk of some types of dementia.

Maintain a normal blood pressure

Blood pressure is known to increase your risk of developing some kinds of dementia. Avoid salt and have regular checkups.

Exercise regularly

Because it helps keep weight, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels at normal levels, a minimum of 150 minutes of aerobic activity each week is recommended.

Don’t drink too much alcohol

Overuse of alcohol can increase blood pressure and increase risks for cardiovascular disease, therefore it advised to follow the recommended limits for alcohol consumption.

Stop smoking

Smoking is known to narrow the blood vessels causing a greater risk of vascular dementia.

That old Benjamin Franklin axiom, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” is as relevant today as it was then. The early implications of this new research are encouraging. By following the advice of experts it will put you in good stead to hold off the onset of dementia or other chronic diseases.

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