Thursday, January 19, 2006

Think fast (Gs) - be socially active as you age

Interesting article below that suggests that staying socially active and engaged helps protect against deterioration of mental processing speed (Gs-P; perceptual speed in particular). Although the methodology and technical language of this article is a bit steep, the bottom line supports the common sense notion of staying socially active during old age may protect against cognitive decline in cognitive processing speed.

Lovden, M., Ghisletta, P., & Lindenberger, U. (2005). Social participation attenuates decline in perceptual speed in old and very old age. Psychology and Aging, 20(3), 423-434.

  • Does an engaged and active lifestyle in old age alleviate cognitive decline, does high cognitive functioning in old age increase the possibility of maintaining an engaged and active lifestyle, or both? The authors approach this conundrum by applying a structural equation model for testing dynamic hypotheses, the dual change score model (J. J. McArdle & F. Hamagami, 2001), to 3-occasion longitudinal data from the Berlin Aging Study (Time 1: n = 516, age range = 70-103 years). Results reveal that within a bivariate system of perceptual speed and social participation, with age and sociobiographical status as covariates, prior scores of social participation influence subsequent changes in perceptual speed, while the opposite does not hold. Results support the hypothesis that an engaged and active lifestyle in old and very old age may alleviate decline in perceptual speed.
Other important (select) conclusions by the authors (emphasis added by blogmaster):
  • Decline in some other cognitive ability than perceptual speed might have an impact on engagement in social activities because individuals experience these declines as more immediately limiting their functional capacity.
  • Little is known about the exact mechanisms by which lifestyle factors such as social participation might influence cognitive decline. An engaged lifestyle might provide greater readiness for compensatory changes in response to neurophysiological decline (e.g., Schaie, 1996; Stern, 2002).

  • Lifestyle factors might also modify or protect against potential neurophysiological changes underlying cognitive aging in more direct ways than by introducing interindividual differences in the ability to cope with them.
  • The exact mediating mechanisms might be one or a combination of several alternatives, such as neurophysiological effects of mental stimulations (e.g., environmental complexity and learning) and reduced cardiovascular pathology as an effect of physical activity, which in turn might be associated with social participation.

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