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Busy Lifestyle Associated with Superior Brain Processing Speed

When you’re busy all of the time, it can sometimes feel like you’re trapped in an unending flurry of activity. But if you’re over 50, this may be good news.

That’s because older adults who maintain a busy lifestyle tend to do better on cognitive tests that those who are less busy.

“We show that people who report greater levels of daily busyness tend to have better cognition, especially with regard to memory for recently learned information,” says Sara Festini, lead author of a new study.

The researchers surveyed 330 participants in the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study. Ages ranged from 50 to 89 years of age and included both men and women.

All of the participants visited the Park Aging Mind Laboratory at the Center for Vital Longevity, where they took part in a long series of neuropsychological tests to measure their cognitive performance.

The study showed that, at all ages, a busier lifestyle is associated with superior brain processing speed. This includes superior working memory, reasoning and vocabulary, regardless of education.

In particular, the strongest association occurred between busyness and better episodic memory. This is the ability to remember specific events that occurred in the past.

The study authors warn that this doesn’t necessarily mean being busy has direct impact on cognitive improvement. It’s possible that people with better brain function simply seek out a busier lifestyle. Or, busyness and cognition might reinforce each other.

On the other hand, busier people are exposed to more information and situations than those who are less busy. This may stimulate cognitive function and present more opportunities to learn.


SOURCE: Mind your busyness. Press Release. Frontiers via EurekAlert. May 2016.

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