As people get older, one of the main concerns is cognitive decline. In July, a study by researchers from Monash University showed that activities such as using computers, solving puzzles, and engaging in mind-challenging tasks might help in combating dementia. Now, a new study has found that adult education classes might also be effective.
The study by researchers from the University of Tohoku University in Sedan, Japan, found that people who took adult education classes were 19% less likely to develop dementia. The researchers analysed data from 282,421 people aged between 40 and 69 years who had enrolled with the UK Biobank between 2006 and 2010, according to Medical News Today. The study was published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
People who take adult education classes have a lower risk of developing dementia five years later, Dr Hikaru Takeuchi, the study’s first author said in a Frontiers blog post. “Adult education is likewise associated with better preservation of nonverbal reasoning with increasing age,” Takeuchi added. The results showed that the fluid intelligence and nonverbal reasoning of participants who took adult education classes were better than those who did not. Notably, adult education does not affect the preservation of visuospatial memory or reaction time.
“One possibility is that engaging in intellectual activities has positive results on the nervous system, which in turn may prevent dementia. But ours is an observational longitudinal study, so if a direct causal relationship exists between adult education and a lower risk of dementia, it could be in either direction,” said Dr Ryuta Kawashima, co-author of the study.
However, some experts say the association between adult education and the risk of dementia is unclear. For instance, a senior lecturer in cognitive epidemiology and dementia at Brighton and Sussex Medical School in the United Kingdom, Dr Dorina Cadar told Medical News Today that the association is unclear. However, she added that adult education could increase cognitive reserve, which refers brain’s ability to cope with damage or decline by using alternative brain resources. “Education might stimulate brain plasticity, which is the brain’s ability to adapt and reorganize itself in response to new experiences or challenges,” she said.