Saturday, April 13, 2013

Social Interaction and Memory

This week I read an article about the decline of cognitive health due to aging and lack of social interaction. This is because social interaction reduces stress and loneliness that one may feel as they get older. Reduction of stress is needed since some studies have pointed to higher cortisol levels equalling a decline in cognitive function especially visual memory. Stress can also lead to physical exhaustion of the body which leads to cognitive problems. Social interaction brings about the opportunity to perform complex task which stimulates the mind.  A study from Longino and Kart also shows that interactions with closer connections makes for a better well-being. According to Karen Rook that companionship is in a category of its own because it provides a unique relationship that is for pleasure. This pleasure is different from the pleasure received through leisure and productive activities because it is more personal and catered to your interest.
The first hypothesis to explain how the brain makes up for aging is reserve which is separated into two categories. Brain reserve is based on neuron count and the strength of the neural connections which influences cognitive health. Cognitive reserve is the ability and flexibility to access the brains reserve and generate new neurons. As a result complex activities are needed to maintain brain health because its stimulates this activity. Enriched environments is another factor which contributes to cognitive health. In a study of 8 african american women, at risk of cognitive decline, were given the task of volunteering over a period of time. MRIs taken before and after they began volunteering show an increase in activity in the prefrontal cortex which is linked to memory. Another hypothesis suggest that mental exercise may be key to maintaining cognitive health. By exercising your brain muscles earlier in life it may help its performance later.

This article made me think of all the brain exercising games that are popular and I wonder if it really works. I also wonder if social interaction with someone closer to you is any different from other interactions which may give you just as much pleasure if its something you enjoy doing. It makes me think of stories of older people passing soon after their significant other. 

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