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Rate of memory decline doubles up during last 2 years of life

New Delhi, Thu, 05 Apr 2012 NI Wire

A recent study has revealed that, the memory of a person start declining at a faster rate in the last two-and-a-half years of life in comparison to any other time of life.

However, in a second study it has been found that the best way to retain memory during the last stages of life is through board games.

Both the studies were conducted by the researchers at Rush University Medical.

"In our first study, we used the end of life as a reference point for research on memory decline rather than birth or the start of the study," said Robert S. Wilson, PhD, study author and neuropsychologist at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.

The study was carried on 174 Catholic priests, nuns and monks without any kind of memory problems in them. The memory of all the participants was tested yearly for six to 15 years before death. After their death, scientists examined their brains for hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease called plaques and tangles.

The evaluation of the examination of brain after death revealed that, an average of about two-and-a-half years before death, the ability to think differently and memory started declining at the rate of 8 to 17 times faster than before this terminal period. In addition to that, higher levels of plaques and tangles were seen that were linked to an earlier onset of this terminal period but not to rate of memory decline during it.

In the second study conducted by Wilson, it was found that the best way to preserve memory during the late life is through board games or reading, this can keep you memory more fit.

The study, focused on mental activities was carried on 1,076 people having an average age of 80 years who were free of dementia. Yearly examinations of participants were done for about five years.

The study also reported on how often they read the newspaper, wrote letters, visited a library and played board games such as chess or checkers. The frequency of these mental activities were rated on a scale of one to five with one representing once a year or less and five means every day or almost every day.

"The results suggest a cause and effect relationship: that being mentally active leads to better cognitive health in old age," said Wilson.

The results found that the participation of people mentally stimulating activities and their mental functioning declined at the same rates over the years. The researchers also found that they could predict the level of cognitive functioning of the participants by observing the level of mental activity the year before but it is not possible to predict the level of cognitive functioning of later mental activity.

The details of the findings have been published in the April 4 online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

-with inputs from ANI.

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