Let's think of an action that we perform every day, such as cooking. To do this, we implement a series of functions, such as executive functions when we choose the menu, mnemonic functions when we think about the ingredients we have at home, attention when it comes to selecting foods based on seasonality and finally executive functions when we rinse and cut fruit, vegetables or other foods. So, something so simple, to which we probably don't even pay much attention, involves different mental processes. The problem is that, with age, cognitive functions tend to deteriorate, significantly impacting lifestyle and actions such as cooking can become complex. However, Japanese researchers have observed that reading aloud and solving simple arithmetic calculations can bring benefits in different types of cognitive functions (Nouchi et al, Trials, 2012 - Nouchi et al, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 2016).
The researchers recruited 64 elderly people in good health and divided them into two groups. The first group was asked, for six months once a week, to go to sessions where they were asked to read aloud and solve simple arithmetic calculations, such as additions or divisions with numbers up to three digits. The second group instead, used as a control, was put on hold, so the people of the second group did not carry out any activity. At the beginning and at the end of the experiment, the researchers evaluated the cognitive functions of the study participants with a series of tests, such as remembering a sequence of numbers, matching names to faces or saying aloud the color of a writing that instead indicates a different color, for example the word RED written in green should be read green. What emerged was that the participants in the sessions of reading aloud and arithmetic calculations showed, after six months, improvements in various areas, not directly related to the activities that had engaged them. In particular, benefits were observed in executive functions, verbal episodic memory, attention and speed of execution of tasks.
So, the article of today indicates how small actions, such as reading aloud or calculate sums, subtractions, multiplications and divisions, can protect cognitive functions from age-related deterioration.