In March 2017, the Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) experts met and then defined cognitively stimulating activities as exercises that challenge a person’s ability to think. The GCBH came to consensus that stimulating your brain through various intellectual activities (e.g. practicing yoga, taking a photography class, gardening, learning a new language, volunteering, etc.) provides benefits for adults’ brain health and can impact how well your brain functions. The new report outlined 9 recommendations to incorporate cognitively stimulating activities which maintain brain health and help with daily living. These recommendations offer a variety of ways for people to challenge their brains at any age. The report was refined over several months within the GCBH, reviewed by other experts in the field and finalized by the GCBH Governance Committee.
The report recommends that people begin incorporating cognitively stimulating activities into their lifestyle as soon as possible. If you are already participating in cognitively stimulating activities, try adding a few new ones to your schedule, increasing the level of difficulty, or participating in active or group activities; physical activity and social engagement provide added benefits to brain health. The report discusses numerous aspects of cognitively stimulating activities, including cognitive training, education, computer based training, commercial “brain games”, and non-invasive brain stimulation. It also identifies knowledge gaps of what science knows and what we don’t know. For example, the evidence today regarding the benefits of what most people consider “brain games” is weak to non-existent.
To complement the GCBH’s report, AARP surveyed close to 3,000 adults age 40 and older to understand the factors that influence how people engage in cognitive activities and how these issues relate to people’s brain health and mental well-being as they age. Survey results can be found in the section below.
As a result of these deliberations, the GCBH Governance Committee approved the following recommendations on cognitively stimulating activities for people as they age.
To find out more about engaging your brain, read this article by Dena Bunis.
The most-frequently reported barrier to adding more mentally-stimulating activities is being uncertain of which activities benefit brain health. Learn more.
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Healthy aging requires you to challenge your brain. Also available in Chinese and Arabic translations.
Click image to view full PDF
Debunking myths about the aging brain. Also available in Chinese and Arabic translations.
ANA INÉS-ANSALDO, PH.D
Associate Professor of Speech-Language Pathology, University of Montréal, Canada
DAVID BARTRÉS-FAZ, PH.D.
Associate Professor of Medical Psychology, University of Barcelona, Spain
SYLVIE BELLEVILLE, PH.D.
Professor of Psychology, University of Montréal, Canada
NEIL CHARNESS, PH.D.
William G. Chase Professor of Psychology, Florida State University, USA
SHEUNG-TAK CHENG, PH.D.
Chair Professor of Psychology and Gerontology, The Education University of Hong Kong
ARTHUR F. KRAMER, PH.D.
Senior Vice Provost for Research and Graduate Education, Northeastern University, USA
FACUNDO MANES, PH.D.
President and Professor of Neurology, Facaloro University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
LARS NYBERG, PH.D.
Professor of Neuroscience, Umeå University, Sweden
ALVARO PASCUAL-LEONE, M.D., PH.D.
Professor of Neurology, Harvard Medical School, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, USA
GEORGE REBOK, PH.D.
Professor of Public Health, John Hopkins University, USA
BARBARA J. SAHAKIAN, DSC, FMEDSCI
Professor of Clinical Neuropsychology, University of Cambridge, UK
YAAKOV STERN, PH.D.
Director of Cognitive Neuroscience Division, Columbia University, USA
SHERRY L. WILLIS, PH.D.
Research Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, University of Washington, USA
Global Council on Brain Health. Engage Your Brain: GCBH Recommendations on Cognitively Stimulating Activities. Washington, DC: Global Council on Brain Health, July 2017. https://doi.org/10.26419/pia.00001.001
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