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Keeping Busy Boosts Brain Power

By Oliver Álvarez (Personal Art) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons)

New research now suggests that a busy schedule could be very good for the brain.  The new study of older adults shows that those with overbooked schedules did better on tests of reasoning, working memory and episodic memory  as well as information processing speed.

The leader of the study, Sara Festini, cautioned that the findings do not necessarily prove that being busy makes us smarter.  Other factors could be at play – for example it could be that sharper people just naturally seeked out more mental stimulation.

Other studies have already found that developing new skills can help to improve mental acuity in older adults.

Ms. Festini  states:

We think it is likely that being busy is good for your cognition

The report was published in the May 17th issue of Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience and is titled “The Busier the Better: Greater Busyness Is Associated with Better Cognition”.

Ms. Festini suggests that busyness could be a proxy for people’s cognitive engagement in daily life.

The new results are in line with the results from prior studies.  Those studies showed that older adults who were more active tended to have better mental acuity and a lower risk of dementia.  The Alzheimer’s association recommends that older adults remain engaged mentally, physically and socially to delay or reduce the effects of dementia.

This new study had 330 participants (both men and women) who were between 50 and 89 years old.  They rated their “busyness” levels by answering questions such as “How often do you have too many things to do each day to actually get them all done?” and  “How often do you have so many things to do that you go to bed later than your regular bedtime?” This was followed by a series of tests (known as a “cognitive battery”) to gauge memory, reasoning, vocabulary and the speed at which information was processed.  The participants were selected from the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study.

Debra Fleishman who is a professor of neurological and behaviorial sciences at Rush University Medical Center said that there could be other explanations for the connection between busyness and mental acuity.   Outside factors such as income, occupation, ethnicity and race matter –

Occupation, income, ethnicity and race are all important factors that can influence accessibility to resources that support an active lifestyle

she said. Ms. Fleishman was not involved in the study.

The new study is one of the few that has assessed “busyness” and the effects on the lifestyle of older individuals.  The report noted that “busyness” could be both beneficial and harmful since busy individuals could also be under increased levels of stress.



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