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Table of Contents
Vol. 56, No. 5, 2010
Issue release date: August 2010
Section title: Behavioural Science Section / Mini-Review
Free Access
Gerontology 2010;56:507–519
(DOI:10.1159/000264918)

How Can We Not ‘Lose It’ if We Still Don’t Understand How to ‘Use It’? Unanswered Questions about the Influence of Activity Participation on Cognitive Performance in Older Age – A Mini-Review

Bielak A.A.M.
Australian National University, Canberra, A.C.T., Australia
email Corresponding Author

Abstract

The ‘use it or lose it’ hypothesis of cognitive aging predicts that engagement in intellectual, social, and physical activities offers protective benefits from age-related cognitive decline and lowers dementia risk. Although this hypothesis has not yet been supported conclusively, there is some empirical evidence in favor of the proposal. However, a number of questions surrounding the relationship between activity participation and cognitive ability in older adulthood are not yet well answered. This mini-review identifies seven key methodological and theoretical issues that are critical to our understanding and eventual possible promotion of activity participation as a way to maintain cognitive well-being. These include the mechanisms involved, the optimal ways of assessing activity engagement, which cognitive domains receive the most benefit from activity engagement, the temporal nature and the directionality of the relationship, the influence of demographic variables such as age, gender, or education, and whether one activity domain offers the most benefit to cognition. The current knowledge on each of these issues is critically evaluated, including describing what we already know about the issue, and identifying potential difficulties and opportunities that may exist in finding an answer. More studies need to take on the challenge of specifically targeting these issues, as each is essential to moving the field forward.

© 2009 S. Karger AG, Basel


  

Key Words

  • Lifestyle engagement
  • Activity participation
  • Cognition
  • ‘Use it or lose it’ hypothesis

References

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  2. Seeman TE, McEwen BS: Impact of social environment characteristics on neuroendocrine regulation. Psychosom Med 1996;58:459–471.
  3. Craik FIM, Salthouse TA (eds): The Handbook of Aging and Cognition, ed 3. New York, Psychology Press, 2008.
  4. Dixon RA, Bäckman L, Nilsson LG (eds): New Frontiers in Cognitive Aging. New York, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  5. Salthouse TA: Theoretical Perspectives on Cognitive Aging. Hillsdale, Erlbaum, 1991.
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  10. Vance DE, Wadley VG, Ball KK, Roenker DL, Rizzo M: The effects of physical activity and sedentary behavior on cognitive health in older adults. J Aging Phys Act 2005;13:294–313.
  11. Hillman CH, Motl RW, Pontifex MB, Posthuma D, Stubbe JH, Boomsma DI, de Geus EJC: Physical activity and cognitive function in a cross-section of younger and older community-dwelling individuals. Health Psychol 2006;25:678–687.
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  15. Newson RS, Kemps EB: Cardiorespiratory fitness as a predictor of successful cognitive aging. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 2006;28:949–967.
  16. Newson RS, Kemps EB: The influence of physical and cognitive activities on simple and complex cognitive tasks in older adults. Exp Aging Res 2006;32:341–362.
  17. Parslow RA, Jorm AF, Christensen H, Mackinnon A: An instrument to measure engagement in life: factor analysis and associations with sociodemographic, health and cognition measures. Gerontology 2006;52:188–198.
  18. Roth DL, Goode KT, Clay OJ, Ball KK: Association of physical activity and visual attention in older adults. J Aging Health 2003;15:534–547.
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    External Resources

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    External Resources

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Author Contacts

Allison A.M. Bielak, PhD
Ageing Research Unit, Centre for Mental Health Research
Australian National University
Building 63, Eggleston Road, Canberra, A.C.T. 0200 (Australia)
Tel. +61 2 6125 8413, Fax +61 2 6125 0733, E-Mail allison.bielak@anu.edu.au

  

Article Information

Received: March 13, 2009
Accepted: September 7, 2009
Published online: December 7, 2009
Number of Print Pages : 13
Number of Figures : 0, Number of Tables : 1, Number of References : 93

  

Publication Details

Gerontology (International Journal of Experimental, Clinical, Behavioural and Technological Gerontology)

Vol. 56, No. 5, Year 2010 (Cover Date: August 2010)

Journal Editor: Wick G. (Innsbruck)
ISSN: 0304-324X (Print), eISSN: 1423-0003 (Online)

For additional information: http://www.karger.com/GER


Copyright / Drug Dosage / Disclaimer

Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher or, in the case of photocopying, direct payment of a specified fee to the Copyright Clearance Center.
Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in goverment regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug.
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in this publication are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the publishers and the editor(s). The appearance of advertisements or/and product references in the publication is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality or safety. The publisher and the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content or advertisements.

Abstract

The ‘use it or lose it’ hypothesis of cognitive aging predicts that engagement in intellectual, social, and physical activities offers protective benefits from age-related cognitive decline and lowers dementia risk. Although this hypothesis has not yet been supported conclusively, there is some empirical evidence in favor of the proposal. However, a number of questions surrounding the relationship between activity participation and cognitive ability in older adulthood are not yet well answered. This mini-review identifies seven key methodological and theoretical issues that are critical to our understanding and eventual possible promotion of activity participation as a way to maintain cognitive well-being. These include the mechanisms involved, the optimal ways of assessing activity engagement, which cognitive domains receive the most benefit from activity engagement, the temporal nature and the directionality of the relationship, the influence of demographic variables such as age, gender, or education, and whether one activity domain offers the most benefit to cognition. The current knowledge on each of these issues is critically evaluated, including describing what we already know about the issue, and identifying potential difficulties and opportunities that may exist in finding an answer. More studies need to take on the challenge of specifically targeting these issues, as each is essential to moving the field forward.

© 2009 S. Karger AG, Basel


  

Author Contacts

Allison A.M. Bielak, PhD
Ageing Research Unit, Centre for Mental Health Research
Australian National University
Building 63, Eggleston Road, Canberra, A.C.T. 0200 (Australia)
Tel. +61 2 6125 8413, Fax +61 2 6125 0733, E-Mail allison.bielak@anu.edu.au

  

Article Information

Received: March 13, 2009
Accepted: September 7, 2009
Published online: December 7, 2009
Number of Print Pages : 13
Number of Figures : 0, Number of Tables : 1, Number of References : 93

  

Publication Details

Gerontology (International Journal of Experimental, Clinical, Behavioural and Technological Gerontology)

Vol. 56, No. 5, Year 2010 (Cover Date: August 2010)

Journal Editor: Wick G. (Innsbruck)
ISSN: 0304-324X (Print), eISSN: 1423-0003 (Online)

For additional information: http://www.karger.com/GER


Article / Publication Details

First-Page Preview
Abstract of Behavioural Science Section / Mini-Review

Received: 3/13/2009
Accepted: 9/7/2009
Published online: 12/7/2009
Issue release date: August 2010

Number of Print Pages: 13
Number of Figures: 0
Number of Tables: 0

ISSN: 0304-324X (Print)
eISSN: 1423-0003 (Online)

For additional information: http://www.karger.com/GER


Copyright / Drug Dosage

Copyright: All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be translated into other languages, reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, microcopying, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher or, in the case of photocopying, direct payment of a specified fee to the Copyright Clearance Center.
Drug Dosage: The authors and the publisher have exerted every effort to ensure that drug selection and dosage set forth in this text are in accord with current recommendations and practice at the time of publication. However, in view of ongoing research, changes in goverment regulations, and the constant flow of information relating to drug therapy and drug reactions, the reader is urged to check the package insert for each drug for any changes in indications and dosage and for added warnings and precautions. This is particularly important when the recommended agent is a new and/or infrequently employed drug.
Disclaimer: The statements, opinions and data contained in this publication are solely those of the individual authors and contributors and not of the publishers and the editor(s). The appearance of advertisements or/and product references in the publication is not a warranty, endorsement, or approval of the products or services advertised or of their effectiveness, quality or safety. The publisher and the editor(s) disclaim responsibility for any injury to persons or property resulting from any ideas, methods, instructions or products referred to in the content or advertisements.

References

  1. Colcombe SJ, Kramer AF, Erickson KI, Scalf P, McAuley E, Cohen NJ, Webb A, Jerome GJ, Marquez DX, Elavsky S: Cardiovascular fitness, cortical plasticity, and aging. Proc Natl Acad Sci 2004;101:3316–3321.
  2. Seeman TE, McEwen BS: Impact of social environment characteristics on neuroendocrine regulation. Psychosom Med 1996;58:459–471.
  3. Craik FIM, Salthouse TA (eds): The Handbook of Aging and Cognition, ed 3. New York, Psychology Press, 2008.
  4. Dixon RA, Bäckman L, Nilsson LG (eds): New Frontiers in Cognitive Aging. New York, Oxford University Press, 2004.
  5. Salthouse TA: Theoretical Perspectives on Cognitive Aging. Hillsdale, Erlbaum, 1991.
  6. Fratiglioni L, Paillard-Borg S, Winblad B: An active and socially integrated lifestyle in late life might protect against dementia. Lancet Neurol 2004;3:343–353.
  7. Small BJ, Hughes TF, Hultsch DF, Dixon RA: Lifestyle activities and late-life changes in cognitive performance; in Stern Y (ed): Cognitive Reserve: Theory and Applications. Philadelphia, Taylor & Francis, 2007, pp 173–186.
  8. Christensen H, Korten A, Jorm AF, Henderson AS, Scott R, Mackinnon AJ: Activity levels and cognitive functioning in an elderly community sample. Age Aging 1996;25:72–80.
  9. Holtzman RE, Rebok GW, Saczynski JS, Kouzis AC, Wilcox Doyle K, Eaton WW: Social network characteristics and cognition in middle-aged and older adults. J Gerontol Psychol Sci 2004;59B:P278–P284.
  10. Vance DE, Wadley VG, Ball KK, Roenker DL, Rizzo M: The effects of physical activity and sedentary behavior on cognitive health in older adults. J Aging Phys Act 2005;13:294–313.
  11. Hillman CH, Motl RW, Pontifex MB, Posthuma D, Stubbe JH, Boomsma DI, de Geus EJC: Physical activity and cognitive function in a cross-section of younger and older community-dwelling individuals. Health Psychol 2006;25:678–687.
  12. Bugg JM, DeLosh EL, Clegg BA: Physical activity moderates time-of-day differences in older adults’ working memory performance. Exp Aging Res 2006;32:431–446.
  13. Hultsch DF, Hammer M, Small BJ: Age differences in cognitive performance in later life: relationships to self-reported health and activity life style. J Gerontol Psychol Sci 1993;48:P1–P11.
  14. Karp A, Paillard-Borg S, Wang HX, Silverstein M, Winblad B, Fratiglioni L: Mental, physical and social components in leisure activities equally contribute to decrease dementia risk. Dement Geriatr Cogn Disord 2006;21:65–73.
  15. Newson RS, Kemps EB: Cardiorespiratory fitness as a predictor of successful cognitive aging. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol 2006;28:949–967.
  16. Newson RS, Kemps EB: The influence of physical and cognitive activities on simple and complex cognitive tasks in older adults. Exp Aging Res 2006;32:341–362.
  17. Parslow RA, Jorm AF, Christensen H, Mackinnon A: An instrument to measure engagement in life: factor analysis and associations with sociodemographic, health and cognition measures. Gerontology 2006;52:188–198.
  18. Roth DL, Goode KT, Clay OJ, Ball KK: Association of physical activity and visual attention in older adults. J Aging Health 2003;15:534–547.
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