Does exercise improve cognitive function?

weight lifting brain exercise cognitive function

I guess I’m biased against the idea that exercise is very important for health. I hated sports as a kid, and efforts at getting “fit” as an adult have generally ended in failure within months. Speaking of the word “fit”, one of my favourite quotes from Terry Pratchett’s discworld novels is this little exchange, from the book “Moving Pictures”:

That would be the senior masters, Master,’ said the Bursar.  ‘I would say they are supremely fit, myself.’

 ‘Fit?  The Dean looks like a man who’s swallered a bed!’

‘Ah, but Master,’ said the Bursar smiling indulgently,‘the word ‘fit’, as I understand it, means ‘appropriate to a purpose,’ and I would say the body of the Dean is supremely appropriate to the purpose of sitting around all day and eating big heavy meals.’

Yes, while other kids were kicking a ball around outside, I was safely ensconced in bed reading Discworld novels. I guess that puts me at odds with other doctors with an interest in health optimization, such as Peter Attia and Shawn Baker, who were more or less professional athletes long before they ever started studying medicine, and who are therefore clearly biased in the opposite direction.

I’ve written previously about how exercise is not a particularly effective way to lose weight, and about how vigorous exercise will not make you live longer than if you stick with moderate exercise, such as walking – in fact, 10,000 steps of moderate intensity walking per day is all you need, if the goal is to maximize longevity. Which suits me just fine, because that’s about as much exercise as I can bring myself to do.

But there could be other benefits associated with exercise. Elderly people who suffer from sarcopenia (muscle wasting) clearly benefit from strength training as a means to maintain functional independence for as long as possible, as do people with osteoporosis (a weak and fracture-prone skeleton). It has also frequently been claimed that exercise improves cognitive function. That claim has however up to now been based more on wishful thinking than on any actual evidence.

A systematic review carried out by the Cochrane Collaboration in 2015 failed to show any benefits of aerobic exercise on cognitive function, but that review was limited by the fact that all the included trials were small and short term – in other words the data was statistically underpowered. Which is why it’s nice to see that a large randomized controlled trial has now been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, that sought to answer definitively the question of whether exercise improves cognitive function.

This new trial included 1,401 participants in total and they were followed for an average of four years, so if there is a meaningful difference it should be detectable. The trial was conducted in the city of Kuopio in Finland and ran from 2005 to 2011. It’s strange that it’s taken the researchers ten years to get their results published – I’ll discuss why I think that is at the end of this article.

The study wasn’t blinded, which is always a problem, because it introduces some measure of bias – the control group will tend to perform worse since they know they’re the control group, and the researchers will tend to rate them worse since they want the study to produce a positive result (positive studies get more attention and get cited more often, and are therefore more helpful for researchers from a career perspective). On the other hand, it’s hard to blind a study involving exercise interventions (maybe impossible), so it’s hard to be too critical of the lack of blinding in this type of study.

The average age of the participants was 67 years. They were randomized to one of six different groups, with roughly 230 participants in each group. The first group was a control group that was more or less left to its own devices. The second was an aerobic exercise group that was told to do 60 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise five times a week. The participants in the aerobic exercise group were allowed to choose the type of exercise themselves, although they were coached in a peculiar Finnish form of exercise called “Nordic walking”, which is basically brisk walking with ski poles.

The third group was a resistance training group that was told to do at least two strength training sessions per week. While the aerobic exercise group was unmonitored during exercise, the strength training group engaged in supervised exercise at the research centre’s own gym. The fourth group was a diet group that was told to follow the standard diet recommendations that were being promulgated by the Finnish health authorites at the time:

  1. Eat at least four servings of fruit, vegetables and, berries per day
  2. Eat at least two servings of fish per week.
  3. Eat at least 14 gramsof dietary fibre per 1000 calories of food.
  4. Get at most 10% of calories from saturated fat.

The standard nonsense message, in other words. The fifth group did both aerobic exercise and diet modification, and the sixth group that did both resistance training and diet modification. The two exercise only groups received eleven individualized face-to-face counseling sessions over the course of the four years and three group sessions, as did the diet only group. The purpose of all these sessions was to educate and motivate the participants and make sure that they kept following their prescribed interventions. The two exercise + diet groups each received twice as many counseling and group sessions – in other words 22 face-to-face sessions and six group sessions.

Obviously this is a problem. The control group basically received zero attention, the single intervention groups received some attention, and the dual intervention groups received a lot of attention. Any difference in outcomes between the groups could thus simply be due to differences in how much attention they were getting from the people conducting the study – it is a well known fact that the more attention study participants are getting, the better they will tend to perform. This is poor trial design. A properly designed trial should give equal attention to all participants, including those in the control group, so that any difference seen in outcomes isn’t just due to differences in how much attention the participants are getting.

Cognitive function was assess used using a battery of tests called CERAD. The maximum possible score on CERAD is 100, and the participants had an average score at the start of the trial of 83 out of 100. The trial has a 98% statistical power to detect a 3.5 point difference on the CERAD, which the researchers determined to be the minimum clinically meaningful difference – in other words the study had a lot of statistical power, and if there was any meaningful difference in results between the groups, the study was almost certainly going to detect it.

The participants averaged half an hour per day of moderate intensity exercise at baseline. In other words, the average participant was already doing half an hour per day of walking at normal speed at the beginning of the study. That means this study cannot say what will happen to cognitive function if you take someone who literally just lies in bed all day, and then get them to do some exercise – it tells us what will happen if you take someone who already does some walking per day (as most people do), and then get them to do more exercise. The average participant did no strength training at the beginning of the study.

When it comes to diet, the average participant already ate four servings per day of vegetables, fruits and berries and already consumed 14 grams of fibre per 1000 calories. They consumed a little bit more than the recommended amount of saturated fat (11% of total calories), and they ate less fish than recommended (45 grams compared with the recommended 250 grams). Overall, in other words, apart from a low fish consumption, the participants were already largely following the official Finnish dietary recommendations.

Let’s get to the results.

I think it’s worth stating up front that the diet intervention groups did not differ in any meaningful way in terms of what they ate at the end of the study from the other groups. That means that this study cannot say anything about effects of diet on cognitive function. It also shows how hard it is to get people to change their diets. The diet intervention groups didn’t even noticeably increase their intake of fish, even though it was very low to start with, and that would have been an easy and concrete thing to do. It makes me a little depressed to be honest – in spite of regular coaching and lots of attention from the people running the study, there was no change over the four years.

Fortunately, that’s not really what this article is about. We want to know what happened to the exercise intervention groups. These groups did noticeably change their behaviour. The aerobic exercise group increased the amount of aerobic exercise by about 47 minutes per week, which represents a 25% increase in time spent engaging in aerobic exercise. The resistance training group went from averaging 0.1 strength training sessions per week to averaging 1.3 – also a marked difference.

Unfortunately, all this effort had exactly zero impact on cognitive function. None of the five intervention groups showed an improvement in cognitive function at four years when compared with the control group. There were marginal variations between the groups but they were neither statistically significant nor clinically significant. The difference between the aerobic exercise group and the control group was 0.1 points (on the 100 point scale). The difference between the resistance training group and the control group was 0.4 points. The difference between the diet only group and the control group was 0.8 points (funny when you consider that the diet group did not actually change its diet in any noticeable way). The difference between the “resistance training + diet” group and the control group was also 0.8 points.

The biggest difference between the control group and one of the intervention groups was with the “aerobic exercise + diet” group: 1.4 points on the 100 point CERADS test. If you think that’s in any way a meaningful difference, then I would remind you that the researchers had themselves set the bar for a minimum clinically meaningful difference at 3.5 points, so a 1.4 point difference isn’t even close to being clinically significant, even if it had been statistically significant (which it wasn’t).

That marginal difference can likely be explained completely by the facts that the study was unblinded and that the intervention groups received much more attention than the control group. It certainly can’t be explained by some extra benefit seen when aerobic exercise is combined with dietary change, since there was no noticeable dietary change.

That isn’t the impression you’ll get if you read the authors’ own conclusion. They write:

The main finding of the study is that regular at least moderate-intensity aerobic exercise combined with a healthy diet … showed a trend toward improved global cognition during 4 y in middle-aged and older individuals from a general population ... These findings could be used to encourage people to increase physical activity and improve diet and for health care professionals to emphasize these lifestyle changes for the prevention of dementia.

It’s a conclusion that would be hilarious if it wasn’t so typical. They’ve taken completely negative findings and turned them in to a recommendation to exercise more and improve your diet – If your results go against the prevailing dogma, pretend like they are actually perfectly in line with it. It confirms again that you can never trust what the authors of studies write in their conclusions – you have to look at the data yourself.

This is likely the reason why it took the researchers ten years to publish their data – the study showed something different from that they wanted it to show, so they sat on it for as long as they could. When that was no longer an option, they published, but made sure to spin the results as hard as they could and hoped that nobody would notice.

What can we conclude?

Two things. First, you can’t trust what researchers claim their research shows. Second, exercise does not noticeably improve cognitive function.

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40 thoughts on “Does exercise improve cognitive function?”

  1. Perhaps if the researchers had adopted the right combination of diet, anaerobic and aerobic exercise, they might have worked out they don’t work. 🙂

  2. Dr. Rushworth. I’m a retired Canadian physician an enjoy reading your articles. You almost always think much as I do. Today’s comments about conclusions not matching data are particularly apt, and I was delighted with the news that you also share my love of Terry Pratchett. My favourite quotation is from Small Gods. ” But, you’re omnicognizant” “That doesn’t mean I know everything”

  3. Right on the money, Doc!

    I know it’s anecdotal but my own experience validates your contention.

    All my freaking life I’ve been overweight (obese). There was a brief time when I wasn’t which I attributed to a period when I picked up my activity level. I exercised like a MANIAC. At the same time I changed (but didn’t give credit to) my eating which trended toward an increased intake of protein and a reduction in carbs.

    It would take me another 20 years, and gaining back ALL the weight I lost (and then some) to realize all the exercise I did was for naught.

    I have, over the last six months, thanks to the scamdemic, gone to a high fat low carb diet, and walking 10,000 to 15,000 steps a day.

    I’ve lost 50+ pounds, gone from a BMI of 32 to 26, body fat of 22% to 9%.

    So I know I’d been fed BS over the years. In fact, I came to the conclusion that these “health gurus” parading around the Internet are full of it.

    I could get into a lot more about these snake oil salesmen but I don’t want to get off track.

    IN MY OWN CASE (and that must be emphasized) carbs were my biggest problem (my grandfather was a baker…I was always a fat kid).

    The only exercise that really seemed to help (in addition to walking) was Yoga which I intend to add now that I’ve reached some sense of normalcy. OK…maybe some push-ups.

    Love your work, Doc!

    1. @John Orban

      Have to admit to a similar life John. Always the pudgy kid and while at Uni I shed 50lbs walking 3 miles a day ( one hour) and doing 10 sit ups and 10 push ups as a warm up/ warm down. That took 3 months, 20 years old.

      Last year 50 years old and completing a contract involving 10 weeks of night shift. 2 weeks in I twig that the bread in my lunches are seriously hindering my ability to stay awake on shift, so I ditch all bread, up the fat and protein and get an extra walk in round site in the night air. The law of unintended consequences kicks in and I drop 3 belt holes and 23lbs in around 7 weeks. Roughly 10k steps per day.

  4. I’m 70 and have been walking daily for years. What I’ve found is that when I can’t walk due to the weather or something, I do not sleep well. If I don’t sleep well, everything else goes downhill, resting heart rate, blood pressure, even weight. For me, exercise is just part of the process to keep everything in balance.

    1. Agree. And the effects of exercise, diet, sleep and stress are seen over a lifetime, not over a period of 4 years.

      1. Just another garbage study…
        Agree with KS’ s reply: diet, exercise, sleep and meditation have lifetime effects.
        Would be interesting to know how many of the participants of this study were on statins! Some information about that?

  5. My husband and I, not exercising much more than a twice weekly walk to the shops, household cleaning and gardening, feel our cognitive function is kept sharp by a daily cryptic crossword that we tackle together!

  6. How about the idea that to improve cognitive function you must exercise your brain? If you train and exercise your muscles, they get stronger. As a golfer I admire Gary Player for his lifelong and extreme commitment to physical fitness. To see him hitting the ceremonial opening shot at the Augusta Masters alongside his illustrious but not nearly so dedicated to exercise contemporary Jack Nicklaus presents a dramatic example of the effects of sustained exercise.

  7. Thank you Sebastian.
    I’m not surprised that exercise does not improve my brain work.
    I do find that breathing outdoor air helps my breathing.
    Also, I do believe that U.K.’s lock downs have damaged people’s mental health in some cases.
    I also strongly suspect that long term the repeated vaccinations being pushed by big pharma and governments could be more sinister than simply making money.
    These ‘jabs’ will undoubtedly undermine our natural immune systems and could eventually turn us into something resembling robots.

  8. Given your commitment to experimentally verified statements, it is surprising to see that you have fallen for the “10,000 steps” fallacy. This “recommendation” originated as part of a marketing campaign for a Japanese pedometer.

      1. In the article you refer to you also say:

        “At the same time, I think it is reasonable to assume that there is some significant benefit to exercise, considering all the studies that show it improves cognition, balance, bone density and so on – things that should reasonably be expected to promote longevity”. You have re-thought cognition. You should re-think 10,000 steps as a specific recommendation.

      2. 10,000 steps is really short-hand for an hour of moderately intense exercise, which I think seems to be the sweet spot. You get most of the benefit at 5,000 steps, so I guess you could also say 5,000 if you like (or half an hour of moderate intensity exercise). But there seems to be some meaningful additional benefit between 5,000 and 10,000 steps, while there is little to no added benefit when you go from 10,000 to 15,000

  9. Thanks for your interesting articles.
    Sorry to give you an off-topic question.
    I would like to know which tests are most useful when it comes to finding out longterm immunity.
    I had Covid in April 2021 which was confirmed by a PCR-test.
    My symptoms were high fever, abdominal pain but no breathing problems.
    I am not vaccinated and have no such plans at the moment.
    Is it enough if I take an antibody test or would it be better if I took a T-celltest? What are your thoughts?

    Is it so that if you have antibodies you also automatically have memory T-cells?

    Thanks in advance.

    1. Yes, you can’t have antibodies without having T-cells (the antibody producing B-cells require activation by T-helper cells).

      If you want to know for certain whether you’ve had covid, then I would first do an antibody test, since it’s relatively cheap, and only if it’s negative would I do a T-cell test, since it’s relatively expensive. If either is positive that means you’ve had covid and you almost certainly have a high degree of inmunity.

  10. Good to see another Pratchett fan. Your blog is always interesting and informative. I feel like I’m on a bendy educational thing, wossname. Learning curve 😉

  11. Interesting study. However 20 years ago during “lumpen” I learned that cardio decreases stress hormones. This is well researched in the military. Being less stress/anxious will affect your cognition positively. I believe decreasing stress and feeling relaxed is more important than bumping up some memory score a few points. The increase in BDNF will also help you learn better.
    Our brains works best when we are in motion because we had to escape dangers among other things.

  12. Interesting, but my understanding of the literature is that it is moving away from a measure of how much time/ effort is spent on exercising and more towards reducing the amount of time spent sitting in one spot. Sitting is bad (even if the novel is good) and exercising just one way of avoiding sitting.

    That said, I fell for the 10 k daily steps – or actually a study on Glaswegian posties (those delivering mail vs those sitting around offices) showing that 15 k was good. I compromised at 13 k per day and for almost the last 4 years (I have a spreadsheet) I have met or exceeded (usually averaging about 16 k / day ~ 4 hours walking) my goal.

    I also spend a couple of hours a day reading, mostly history but some novels too and lots of scientific papers, and usually as much drinking wine. I’m still alive, although I passed 70 about midway through this experiment – but there is no control.

    Anyway, no idea if my cognitive abilities have reduced their rate of decline, but my time sitting and reading is much more comfortable now that I get a decent amount of exercise. No back pains, don’t nod off as often, etc. I do resent the lost reading time when walking, but podcasts on assorted historical, paleontological, medical and linguistic topics make it bearable.

  13. Great read, Sebastian. My work is with holistic practices such as Pilates, martial arts and yoga (I also have a BSc and do what I can to study neurology and the likes). It’s to my personal opinion that in order to improve cognitive function through exercise one needs to work with coordination, rythm, balance and all these other parts which stimulate the brains engagement more than pushing weights and running on a treadmill (the brain I see you train like a muscle, pushing weights works with physicality, challenging the brain in the same time exercises that muscles, rather than mindless grunting in a gym perhaps) .. Didn’t notice you mention these in the study measurements. Just another study used to try and prove a point which is so opinionated… Judgy perhaps there’s so many narrow perspectives in health and to me, it seems those who do or can shout loudest get the most coverage. It’s getting so boring.

    Thanks as always to address these biases, even if it’s on a personal note à little, for you too! 🙂

  14. Interesting article as always. I do wonder however, if longer term there would be some impact, particularly from the retention of muscle mass – since that allows older people to be more active, therefore more engaged in going outside, playing with grandchildren, etc. Even if that doesn’t specifically help fight cognitive decline, it has to make the time beforehand more enjoyable.

  15. There was a study done on women and 10,000 steps.

    https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2734709?guestAccessKey=afffe229-3940-4dd1-94e6-56cdd109c457&utm_source=jps&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=author_alert-jamanetwork&utm_content=author-author_engagement&utm_term=1m

    Key findings from the study include these:

    Sedentary women averaged 2,700 steps a day.
    Women who averaged 4,400 daily steps had a 41% reduction in mortality.
    Mortality rates progressively improved before leveling off at approximately 7,500 steps per day.
    There were about nine fewer deaths per 1,000 person-years in the most active group compared with the least active group.

    So, if mortality — death — is your major concern, this study suggests you can reap benefits from 7,500 steps a day. That’s 25% fewer steps than the more common goal of 10,000 steps.

  16. Hi Sebastien,

    Thanks for yet another excellent post! Given that so many supplements, exercise regimes, and diets are of no benefit, perhaps you could aim to find those (if any) that actually do.

    Thanks so much once again for all your great work!

  17. Perhaps we are all over analyzing everything these days trying to be prove our personal biases. Forget the 10,000 steps, the guidelines and the studies as to what works and what doesn’t. We are all different.The body was meant to move so move it in a way that works for you. You body as a whole will probably benefit from exercise in some way although the way it benefits is not clear-cut. For me my anxiety level goes down and I feel more energetic and I have a normal BMI as a result. I also noticed better memory and clearer thinking . My strength has increased with resistance training. So the only study that matters is how you feel after exercising. When you see the global obesity epidemic we are having , how can exercise not be recommended? It must be beneficial in some way as sitting all day seems to be a death sentence. I’ve known some non movers who died on their sofa. If you deny exercise benefits you, you may never start and never know.

  18. I think studies such as this can be very misleading. This is a result of measuring a specific narrow variable and not considering the broader implications of the intervention. For example, mental health experts emphasize that regular exercise is an important tool in one’s “mental health” tool box. While it may not a achieve desired outcome on it’s own, or in a study, when combined with other mental health tools, it’s critical to positive emotion and mental stability. Those interested may want to search for the upcoming documentary “No Magic Bullet” by Bob Koven.

    So, how do we know that exercise, when combined with other positive practices does not improve cognitive function? Herein lies the danger of generalizing implications from isolating variables in a study. Just speak to a previously clinically depressed individual and ask them how their cognitive function would change / decrease without exercise in their tool box and, how by adding regular exercise to their program, their cognitive function improved.

  19. 1.3 strength training sessions per week? And they expected to see a difference?

    Bump it up to 5-6 hours of exercise per week and I think you will see a difference.

    That would be also my response to people saying that exercise doesn’t help you lose weight. To begin with, what does that mean: “lose weight”? Muscles weigh more than fat so anyone building muscle mass and transforming from their previous flabby self may not see a difference on the scale but they will see a difference in how their clothes begin to fit.

    I think anyone who has ever done sports will tell you that the reason someone doesn’t lose weight with exercise is because they don’t exercise enough.

  20. “The diet intervention groups didn’t even noticeably increase their intake of fish, even though it was very low to start with, and that would have been an easy and concrete thing to do.”

    Anti-Jeevesian swine! Hanging’s too good for them. Etc, etc.

    When I was well enough to exercise the main benefit seemed to be that short sessions made me feel rather exhilarated – a little like being young again. That it might also have benefits that would appeal to Puritans didn’t occur to me.

  21. Hi Sebastian,

    Thank you for the article, it’s great to see that a quality trial was done for that issue. Not a surprising outcome I suppose, I guess the only recourse is to keep exercising your brain. Like the quote from a movie I can’t remember now “the number one killer for old people is retirement”, when you need to keep your brain stimulated yourself.
    However the health – exercise equation needs to be looked at a bit more widely. A 10,000 steps routine is most likely not enough for fighting sarcopenia, the age-related muscle loss that needs weights training. It may not be enough for lowering blood pressure when your doctor wants to put you on statins (another of your excellent articles). It may also be inadequate for fighting depression where aerobic type of exercise releases natural antidepressants, if you manage to get a depressed person to force herself to do any exercise. There may be more examples.

  22. Just a lay man’s opinion.

    Our bodies are built to live well over 100 years, but most studies cover just a few years. They are therefore not serious. It is even worse if we consider effects on offsprings.
    The covid jabs were released after some weeks or months of highly biased non-public trials. It is plainly criminal.

    No study on anything should be shorter than 75 years (because a longer period would loose too many participants) and no result should lead to intermediary conclusion before 25 years. It means that a laboratory, a hospital or a faculty, not an individual or a small team should bear and publish those studies. Bad for careers and egos in the present system, but better for science.

    The main problen, however, seems to me that over a lifetime we have widely varying habits and occupations, mostly unvolontarily (parents ocupations, beliefs and hurdles; compulsory school; all kinds of occupational duties; wars, catastrophies, economics constraints, legal requiremets, etc) and we live in most varying environemental settings. It follows that it is hardly meaningfull to pick just one or a few factors to built a long time study. All the more novadays when people move around probably more than ever.
    Today’s computers are powerfull enough to manage multifactors longterm studies that next generations would be able to dissecate. This implies difficult modelling but should be possible. Has any such study started anywhere in the world?

    Just as an exemple: the stupid closing down of allmost everything for oldies in Sweden (“if you are over 70, please, stay out”) and the fear mongering about the virus meant that i lost most of my social life, most of my usual body motion and quite a bit of my joyfullness. I did not reduce my food intake accordingly in time (i ate alone all those goodies that were supposed to be eaten with guests or offered to hosts before they got too old) and put accordingly more wheigth than i ever imagined i would ever do.
    I have read and written more than almost ever and i lost hope of rejoining the capoeira club (i joined as a beguiner after retirement, at 66) because i no longer have the necessary strength and stamina, besides limited access to facilities.
    A global craze, not personal choices, has put my life uppside down just because i just then happened to be 75+. (Mind you, i was happy enough not to live in a care home or – far worse – in France just then.) What could it mean for my physical and mental health in ten years time?
    There are millions like me. What does it mean when it comes to allocation of resources in 15 years? Any research started?

  23. Good morning Sebastian,

    I have been following you over a year since you had the interview with Willem Engel about Covid.

    You discuss studies and topics in a very clear and understandable way. Thank you for that.

    I have just seen this study in the Lancet about what the Dutch media say you have dubbel the chance of getting hospitalized as an unvaccinated person when you get the Delta variant.

    This is a link to the study:https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(21)00475-8/fulltext?utm_campaign=tlpr&utm_medium=email&_hsmi=153303228&_hsenc=p2ANqtz-978O7usOkNA4_j7u8DMrvAhiXQTzAAGmzXwDz4Nl87xUcSoBv9urbi_GsHPK0BTaY0axxvee2zWWs76y89oQigloiigw&utm_content=153303228&utm_source=hs_email

    I am curious what you think about the study. What is in your opinion the reliability and generalizability of it? And is it possible to draw the conclusions drew despite the mentioned limitations in the study?

    Thanks in advance for your response.

    Kind regards from the Netherlands,

    Klaas

    1. What does “unvaccinated” mean in the study? Does it include all those “not-fully-vaccinated”, i.e., those who received two jabs but two weeks haven’t yet elapsed, those who received only a single jab, those who are unvaccinated and unexposed, and those who are unvaccinated but recovered?

  24. I can barely walk due to bad hip; osteopath exercises helping mobility. I recently had a dementia test at the GP’s. I couldn’t spell my surname backwards, nor count backwards in 7’s from 100, so diagnosed with mild cognitive decline @77. I am debating registering for the Preventing Dementia free online course offered at the University of Tasmania but tremble at the thought of assessment.

  25. Dana. I’m shocked at that dementia test. That is ridiculous. At any age I would have had difficulty spelling my name backwards unless it was written down in front of me.
    I’d have difficulty counting forwards in sevens, let alone backwards.
    Yet I have a high I.Q. not far below Mensa membership.
    Strikes me that cognitive function tests have been geared to those who excel at rote learning.

  26. I think that for most people it’s not about improving cognitive function, but to avoid keeping it at a lower than optimal level. Yes, I’m talking about after effects of alcohol, and perhaps other drugs. In my experience you can keep your general energy level and cognitive function below optimal for a long time by use of alcohol often. On the other hand physical exercise seem to make you recover faster to get up to your mental potential.

  27. If we would test the hypothesis that reading could improve cognitive function observing volunteers reading the same book every day, I think that we would conclude that reading do not improve cognitive function.

    It seems to me that this kind of mistake is made with exercise in these researches. If you do the same thing that you already know you will not improve your brain (or your body), regardless if it is a “physical” or “mental” activity. But if someone is always learning new “movements” (eg, a new martial art, practicing handstands…), like “Ido Portal’s movement movement” approach, I think that the results could be different.

    {sorry in advance for my english, i’m still learning (no pun intended)]

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