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To combat Alzheimer's, play with your body and brain!

To combat Alzheimer's, play with your body and brain!

Let's protect the brain by playing and having fun! A group of Japanese researchers from the University of Tsukuba is well aware of this and has recently published a work in which it is shown how a program made of games for body and mind can improve cognitive function and prevent, or at least delay, Alzheimer's in elderly people. The research is available online and has been published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia (Yoon et al, Alzheimer's & Dementia, 2022).

How to protect the brain

Live long, but live well, this is important. Science is dedicating several studies to try to understand what tools are available to us, such as diet and lifestyle, to counteract typical age-related diseases, such as cellular degeneration and neurodegeneration, like Alzheimer's. At present, there is no cure for Alzheimer's, so it is important to take action to prevent it or, at least, delay it. Help seems to come from exercises that require you to perform two tasks at the same time, usually a movement of the body and a mental action. Precisely to test this hypothesis, the researchers developed the study we are talking about today.

The game program developed by scientists

Japanese scientists have developed a program, which includes games capable of involving body and mind. The first game is Rock Paper Scissors with some variations. First, participants are asked to challenge the instructor in the classic version of the game, thus trying to win by showing one of the three symbols, paper, scissors or rock, with their hand and declaring it aloud. Then, the game is played in the same way but calling the symbols, namely paper, scissors and stone, with numbers, which are changed from time to time. Following the same procedure, the game must then be performed in reverse, trying to lose against the instructor and always indicating the corresponding symbols or numbers aloud. Finally, the participants must use two hands, with the left indicating the losing symbol and with the right the winning symbol. The second game instead consists in placing the volunteers in a circle and passing colored balls clockwise from hand to hand. At an order from the instructor, everyone must stop and whoever has the red ball must indicate his name aloud, then continue passing the balls from hand to hand, but counterclockwise. Then difficulties are introduced. While the game process remains the same, the action to be taken for whoever has the red ball changes. The instructor indicates 4 numbers, each number associated with an action, such as bringing your hands to your head, or crossing your arms over your chest and placing your hands on your shoulders. Instead of calling the stop during the game, the instructor calls the number and whoever has the red ball must perform the requested action.

The experiment

Scientists recruited 24 people, between 85 and 97 years old. The volunteers were divided into two groups. The first group was asked to follow the above program, which included 60-minute sessions twice a week. At the beginning and after 6 months all the volunteers underwent tests to evaluate cognitive function. Well, what emerged was that those who had followed the program had a better score in all tests. Therefore, the program with games involving actions and thoughts made it possible to preserve or even improve cognitive function. These exercises, in fact, allowed to effectively activate different parts of the brain, both the frontal, temporal and occipital lobes, asking to perform different tasks that involved ability to memorize and process thoughts and movement.

Conclusions

Therefore, to protect our brain it is also important to engage in simple and pleasant activities, such as play, capable of stimulating different brain areas. It often happens that you don't know how to spend your time, feeling bored and dissatisfied, so why not experiment with a bit of Rock Paper Scissors in all its variations? Or even invent games capable of involving children, the elderly and adults in which you are asked to remember actions to be performed based on events in the game itself, such as a command given by a person or a ball that falls from your hand. In short, space for creativity that is good for the brain but also for the mood!
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