Does Lifelong Reading and Cognitive Stimulation Protect Against Dementia? (NHS Choices / Neurology)


The NHS Choices “Behind the Headlines” service regularly offers critical appraisals of recent research on elderly care and dementia-related topics which have appeared in the news. Here is another master-class appraisal.

A study reported in Neurology indicates that people who kept their minds active throughout their lives, with activities such as reading, seeking / processing information or visiting the library, were less likely to develop physical signs of dementia. This small US study involved older adults taking annual tests of their brain function during the last six years of their lives. These individuals also completed questionnaires on their cognitive activities throughout their lives. It has been found that self-reported cognitive activity, both in later life and earlier on, appear to be associated with slower rates of cognitive decline in each year prior to death.

The NHS Choices cautious assessment:

“Even if frequent cognitive activity cannot slow the rate of cognitive decline, activities such as reading, writing and visiting the library may help to improve quality of life”.

Full Text Link (a)


Could lifelong reading protect against dementia? London: NHS Choices; Behind the Headlines, July 5th 2013.

This relates to:

Full Text Link (b) (Note: This article requires a suitable Athens password, a journal subscription or payment for access).


Wilson, RS. Boyle, PA. [and] Yu, L. [et al] (2013). Life-span cognitive activity, neuropathologic burden, and cognitive aging. Neurology, July 3rd 2013, [Epub ahead of print]. (Click here to view the PubMed abstract).

[A brief reference to this item features in Dementia and Elderly Care: the Latest Evidence Newsletter (RWNHST), Volume 3 Issue 9, August 2013].

Brain Plasticity

A BBC magazine-type article on the work of Dr Ryuta Kawashima at Tohoku University’s Smart Ageing Centre:

Full Text Link


Shaw, A. (2015). Trounced by a brain-training octogenarian. London: BBC Health News / BBC News Magazine, May 12th 2015.

Possibly also of interest:

Full Text Link


Mosley, M. (2015). What’s the best way to fight memory loss? London: BBC Health News / BBC News Magazine, July 14th 2015.

Brain Plasticity and Use of New Technology

Touch screen smartphone technology appears to change the brains of healthy users without dementia, implying continuing brain plasticity in reaction to usage of emerging new technology. Research indicates that smartphone users have fingers and thumbs which are more sensitively attuned to the new type of user-interface, based on EEG readings, compared to users of older style cellphones.

Full Text Link


Roberts, M. (2014). Smartphone use ‘changing our brains’. London: BBC Health News, December 23rd 2014.

This relates to:

Full Text Link (Note: This article requires a suitable Athens password, a journal subscription or payment for access).


Gindrat, AD. Chytiris, M. [and] Balerna, M. [et al] (2014). Use-dependent cortical processing from fingertips in touchscreen phone users. Current Biology. December 23rd 2014. [Epub ahead of print].

About Dementia and Elderly Care News

Dementia and Elderly Care News. Wolverhampton Medical Institute: WMI. (jh)
This entry was posted in For Doctors (mostly), For Researchers (mostly), In the News, International, NHS Digital (Previously NHS Choices), Practical Advice, Quick Insights, Statistics, Universal Interest and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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