Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

For older adults, participating in social service activities can improve brain functions

Date:
December 16, 2009
Source:
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health
Summary:
Volunteer service, such as tutoring children, can help older adults delay or reverse declining brain function, according to a new study. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers found that seniors participating in a youth mentoring program made gains in key brain regions that support cognitive abilities important to planning and organizing one's daily life.

Volunteer service, such as tutoring children, can help older adults delay or reverse declining brain function, according to a study led by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the researchers found that seniors participating in a youth mentoring program made gains in key brain regions that support cognitive abilities important to planning and organizing one's daily life.

Related Articles


The study is the first of its kind to demonstrate that valuable social service programs, such as Experience Corps -- a program designed to both benefit children and older adults' health -- can have the added benefits of improving the cognitive abilities of older adults, enhancing their quality of life. The study is published in the December issue of the Journals of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

About 78 million Americans were born from 1946 to 1964. Individuals of retirement age are the fastest-growing sector of the U.S. population, so there is great interest in preserving their cognitive and physical abilities, especially given the societal cost of the alternative.

"We found that participating in Experience Corps resulted in improvements in cognitive functioning and this was associated with significant changes in brain activation patterns," said lead investigator Michelle C. Carlson, PhD, associate professor in the Bloomberg School's Department of Mental Health and Center on Aging and Health. "Essentially the intervention improved brain and cognitive function in these older adults."

The study is the first of its kind to examine the effect of Experience Corps, a national volunteer service program that trains seniors to help children in urban public schools with reading and academic success in other areas. The study followed 17 women aged 65 and older. Half participated in existing Experience Corps programs in Baltimore schools, while the other half were wait-listed to enroll in Experience Corps the following year. Participants were evaluated at enrollment and again six months later, which included fMRI brain scans and cognitive function testing.

"While the results of this study are preliminary, they hold promise for enhancing and maintaining brain reserve in later life, particularly among sedentary individuals who may benefit most urgently from behavioral interventions like Experience Corps," said Carlson, who is now leading a larger fMRI trial as part of a large-scale randomized trial of the Baltimore Experience Corps Program.

"As life expectancies increase, it's important, from a public health standpoint, to delay the onset of diseases associated with aging," said senior author Linda P. Fried, MD, MPH, dean of the Mailman School of Public Health at Columbia University. "This study suggests that new kinds of roles for older adults in our aging society can be designed as a win-win -- for addressing important societal needs, such as our children's success, and simultaneously the health and well-being of the older volunteers themselves."

Additional authors of the study include Kirk I. Erickson, University of Pittsburgh; Arthur F. Kramer and Michelle W. Voss, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Sylvia McGill, The Greater Homewood Community Corporation, Baltimore, Md.; Teresa Seeman, University of California, Los Angeles; and Natalie Bolea, George W. Rebok and Michelle Mielke, Johns Hopkins University.

The research was co-funded by a Research and Career Development award to Dr. Carlson from the Johns Hopkins Claude D. Pepper Center and by a gift from S.D. Bechtel.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Carlson et al. Evidence for Neurocognitive Plasticity in At-Risk Older Adults: The Experience Corps Program. The Journals of Gerontology Series A Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 2009; 64a (12): 1275 DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glp117

Cite This Page:

Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. "For older adults, participating in social service activities can improve brain functions." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 16 December 2009. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091215131334.htm>.
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. (2009, December 16). For older adults, participating in social service activities can improve brain functions. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091215131334.htm
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. "For older adults, participating in social service activities can improve brain functions." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/12/091215131334.htm (accessed December 20, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Health & Medicine News

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

The Best Tips to Curb Holiday Carbs

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) It's hard to resist those delicious but fattening carbs we all crave during the winter months, but there are some ways to stay satisfied without consuming the extra calories. Vanessa Freeman (@VanessaFreeTV) has the details. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

Sierra Leone Bikers Spread the Message to Fight Ebola

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) More than 100 motorcyclists hit the road to spread awareness messages about Ebola. Nearly 7,000 people have now died from the virus, almost all of them in west Africa, according to the World Health Organization. Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

Researchers Test Colombian Village With High Alzheimer's Rates

AFP (Dec. 19, 2014) In Yarumal, a village in N. Colombia, Alzheimer's has ravaged a disproportionately large number of families. A genetic "curse" that may pave the way for research on how to treat the disease that claims a new victim every four seconds. Duration: 02:42 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

The Best Protein-Filled Foods to Energize You for the New Year

Buzz60 (Dec. 19, 2014) The new year is coming and nothing will energize you more for 2015 than protein-filled foods. Fitness and nutrition expert John Basedow (@JohnBasedow) gives his favorite high protein foods that will help you build muscle, lose fat and have endless energy. Video provided by Buzz60
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins