SHOULD WE BUY GRANDMA A Wii?

I realize that the main focus of the St. Louis Cosmetic Surgery blog is plastic surgery and other related subjects in the field of cosmetic medicine but every now and then I think it is important to look at some other very interesting things that are happening in medicine even if they are not directly related to plastic surgery.

In the September issue of Discover Magazine there is a great article on Mental Fitness written by Kathleen McAuliffe and it is certainly worth a look.  A lot of plastic surgery is the baby boomer’s trying to look and stay young and fit-so why not the same with our brains?  For many decades, doctors and scientists thought that our brain’s development was “fixed” in childhood but new studies instead show that our brains have the capacity to continue to develop and “grow” well into our later years.  The key according to these studies is keeping the brain active forcing our brains to rewire themselves even to the point of growing new neurons.  For years it has been known that people who do four or more crossword puzzles a week are half as likely to develop dementia as those who rarely perform crossword puzzles-this proven in studies performed at the Einstein Aging Study at Albert Einstein College in New York.  What is interesting in later studies is that there are all types of mental activities that can stimulate similar brain fitness growth including believe it or not, electronic and video games.  This has stimulated a whole area of research looking into at which types of games and programs work in which areas of the brain and how this information can be used to delay and maybe even prevent dementia as we age.  There are even companies that now market numerous computer programs for increasing your brain’s fitness.  One particular company-Posit Science-(I have no interest financial or otherwise in this company)-has performed a randomized, prospective trial in 437 people age 65 or older in which one group trained using a program called Brain Fitness and the other group trained a same amount of time using a placebo program of DVD’s and quizzes.  The study group-the one’s using the mental fitness program-showed a 10-year improvement in their memory but some other interesting findings were also noted such as their hearing clinically improved.  This technology is now being expanded for use in head trauma patients, children with attention deficit disorders, and more, so this is just the beginning.  I guess what this all means, is that not only can you consider improving your appearance to better match your youthful self, now you can exercise your brain to keep it as young as you feel.  Maybe it is time to go buy grandma-and you-a Wii!

Herluf Lund MD

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