Cognitive Reserve

Today’s post comes from Renee in North Dakota.

Husband and I just returned from several days in Seattle, where we attended 18 hours of continuing education courses sponsored by the National Academy of Neuropsychology. I like to call it Brains ‘r Us. Neuropsychologists are extremely well-trained psychologists who specialize in research, evaluation, and treatment of brain disorders such as stroke, learning disabilities,  dementia, traumatic brain injury, etc. They typically don’t treat mental illness. Husband and I are Clinical Psychologists. We treat, test, and evaluate people with mental illness, as well as some with learning disabilities, TBI, and other brain disorders, but not to the extent that a neuropsychologist would. Our nearest neuropsychologist is 100 miles away, and many people in our catchment areas are too poor, or frail, or have too complicated of lives to drive to Bismarck or Fargo for many hours of neuropsychological testing.  I received some really good neuropsychology training when I was at my clinical internship at a VA hospital, and I feel comfortable testing and evaluating fairly straightforward cases of brain dysfunction. I always refer to the big dogs if I get out of my range of expertise.

I learned this week of a pretty nifty construct called Cognitive Reserve. What this means is that people with more education (High School or higher), who have lots of social engagement (friends, social connections, blog participation), who exercise (even if it is only stretching), and who have intellectual stimulation, are less likely to get Alzheimer’s Disease than those who don’t have or do the above. There is something about education, exercise, and social engagement that results in a thicker cerebral cortex, and also seems to inoculate a person from dementia. Even if such a person develops Alzheimer’s Disease, those with more Cognitive Reserve function longer independently than a person with less Cognitive Reserve, even when having more amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain.

Well, isn’t that good news?!

I think blog participation is a  great way of maintaining and increasing our Cognitive Reserve. Writing blog posts gets you  extra credit, I think.

Think of some creative ways you could increase or maintain your Cognitive Reserve .

127 thoughts on “Cognitive Reserve”

  1. In 1963 I attended a concert performed by one of the famous string quartet groups of the time. It might have been the Budapest String Quartet. They played a Beethoven piece, the A minor quartet. I was moved to tears. And I noticed that these musicians were all so old they could have been slumped in wheelchairs, drooling in their oatmeal in some assisted living facility. Instead here they were performing this sophisticated composition, playing like gods who have escaped the indignities of time.

    Obviously, playing a musical instrument builds up your Cognitive Reserve. Not that I can gain by that. The nicest thing about my arthritis is that it forever prevented me from torturing guitars and guitar music.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Music is one thing that seems to “stick,” even as people move into later stages of dementia. My dad was able to remember and play hymns and long remembered tunes on the piano almost up to the last. Before his dementia hit, he played piano at a nursing home – part of why he liked to go play was that he could see the folks who otherwise seemed “out of it” perk up when they heard the songs from their youth or favorite hymns. There is magic in those notes and chords…

      Liked by 3 people

    2. If, in fact, it was the Budapest String Quartet you saw back when you were twenty or so, here’s something interesting:
      If you google the Budapest String Quartet, you discover that the oldest member of the group of musicians who would have been performing as the Quartet in the 1960s was born in 1897. That means that even the most elderly of the group would have been 66 in 1963. That means that many of us are the sort that should be slumped in our wheelchairs and drooling in our oatmeal.
      Not to take away from the observation that music has salutary properties, but “ancient” looks different when you’re twenty than it does at 60 or 70.

      Liked by 5 people

        1. Hey kids–

          I shudder to think how many times I’ve inserted my proverbial foot in my proverbial mouth by commenting on someone being ‘old — like 50 or 60’ and realizing the person I was talking too was 50 or 60. Heck, I’m 52.

          Just the other day I made an off hand comment to a very close friend of mine, about someone being ‘…older. But not as old as you.’ … …
          Boy, that did not come out the way I meant it. And he has not let me forget it.
          And then I think, why did I mention age anyway?? How did that matter?
          I think I only use it as a descriptive element. Such as the ‘little old lady’ student I’ve met out here a couple times. She reminds me of Katharine Hepburn in her later years… I haven’t found her, she’s found me. Twice. And I wish she’d find me again because we had such a lovely conversation!
          There was another student here, Ismaeel, got a scholarship from the King of Saudi Arabia to come to school here (seriously?? How did you end up in Rochester??) and he learned to speak English from watching American movies. He wanted to be a screen writer.
          He had worked in the shop a few hours and was going to run sound for our play opening tomorrow.
          He had an asthma attack last Friday and died.

          Seize those moments people.

          Liked by 2 people

        2. Ben, you are funny (in a good way). I like how you are not afraid to poke fun at yourself.

          Very sad about the student, Ismaeel. We just never know how many days of life we have left, do we?

          I “seized the moment” today. Spent about 10 minutes cleaning a bathroom and then ditched all other chores and responsibilities and…well, I guess I better write a guest post on this. Suffice it to say, I came home with wet feet but had been blown away by the beautiful things I saw. It was a very pretty day; the drippy rain only made it more beautiful.

          Liked by 2 people

      1. i just called my favorite cousin in fargo to wish him happy birthday the other day. his kids form both marrages were there and his grandkids. i told him i dont think of us as old but happy 62nd birthday and by the way i think we thought 62 was old when we were rock stars. it does make a big circle doesnt it.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. youre missing the point. youll be 76 next year if you take up a new challenge or if you dont. if you try and it doesnt work you can say you tied and it didnt work. if youre still working at it you can say. that steve he was a poor didgeridoo player till the day he died and he didnt take it up til he was 75. what an wikld man in that overstffed chair. my favorite digeridd player is kevin kling. his hands dont work too well either but he doesnt let it stop him.

          it appears to be a 30 dollar commitment in increments
          30 for the instrament , 30 for the stand so you vcan have it stand next to your chair and 30 for the how to course but ill bet the same thin is available on you tube for free

          https://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/B001JLAA22/ref=dp_olp_new_mbc?ie=UTF8&condition=new

          Like

    3. There is some blame implicit when you ascribe “slumped in wheelchairs” and “drooling” to simple aging or cognitive decline. It seems to suggest that the patients could have prevented their condition. I’m no authority on the subject, but it seems to me that usually these symptoms are indicative of stroke and the paralysis that results. Remaining active may have some impact on risk of stroke, but can’t eliminate it. If musicians are in their 70’s and 80’s and still performing, they are likely pretty fit, but also lucky.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think I will follow my mother’s example – don’t quit learning and taking classes. She teaches a couple of music-related workshops/seminars every year, and for each one she does a bit of research and updates her knowledge base. At 80+ she likes to go on “elder hostel” type trips – which are social, generally require some walking, and are educational.

    I like to hit the special exhibits here at the MIA – I often learn something, usually go with a friend, and there is walking…it’s a triple threat, just like Mom’s elder hostels. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. i remember leo bascaglias telling the story of his mother going back to college to get her degree and someon saying she would be 65 when she graduated. she thought a moment and said. “im going to be 65 that year anyway”
      i have used that a couple times

      Liked by 4 people

  3. Join book clubs! Including the baboons’ BBC, I now belong to three. Today I will attend for the first time the Learning Club Mystery Book group, a group of Winona State faculty (and friends) retirees. It’s getting a little thick, though, hard to find time to read stuff other than book club books. Luckily, they don’t all meet monthly.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I enjoy TED talks on youtube or wherever else available as well. The good thing is they must last 20 minutes or less (if I recall correctly). The variety of topics and speakers is eclectic, to say the least.

      Chris in O-town

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  4. I’m doomed.

    Last fall I started taking photography classes at MCTC. I took three classes fall semester and one class in spring semester. Talk about a steep learning curve – not just the content of the classes, but the whole going-to-school-and-managing-multiple-assignments-plus-life thing. Then this year, I was undecided if I would go back…and then I got sick, and by the time I was well enough to make a decision, the registration deadline had passed. I can tell the difference from last year to this year…it was good for me to go to school and I’m not sure that it’s good for me to be stuck at home babysitting two 3-year-olds for more hours than I do something for my own (mental, physical, spiritual) health. I had intentions of taking some online classes and I haven’t done much at all with that.

    I haven’t been getting much exercise either. And social interaction – other than here on the Trail? Not much at all. I’m an introvert, but that doesn’t mean I want to always do stuff by myself.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I empathize with you. After having a private practice for 30 years, and being used to the ebb and flow of new clients, there came a time about a year ago, when the ebb just held on and on. The time to renew my license rolled around last March, and, not having been able to justify the $2000 worth of required CEUs plus license fee for only a handful of clients, I let it lapse. Life hasn’t been the same since.

      I was very passionate about this work and seemingly quite skilled at it. It provided a real sense of purpose, productivity, and a kind of emotional intimacy like no other because my entire focus was on the client and his/her story. I’ve always seen clients in my home, so there was no overhead and I didn’t have to drive. I was able to see their lives changing for the better by the week as well as be there for them in times of crisis. This work definitely kept my mind sharp and stimulated.

      It wasn’t until after people weren’t coming for help that I realized how important this calling had been. Most people look forward to a full retirement. In my case, the Universe shaped the ending to my career, and I’ve slipped into it unwillingly.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Renee, I agree that the blog is a fine source of social engagement – but it’s different than in-person social engagement and shouldn’t substitute for that entirely.

        As for 3-year-olds, so far it’s better/easier than social engagements with 2-year olds, at least here in Twin Land. But the problem comes when it makes up most of my social interactions and supplants doing stuff for my own mental health.

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  5. Well, this is certainly better news than what I heard on NPR this morning, which is that if your sleep is not all it should be, you are probably doomed. If I sleep as much as I probably should, there is no way I will fit in all the learning I want to do 🙂

    I will say I think staying “in touch” is probably a very good way to protect your brain.

    Our late great neighbor who died 2 days short of her 90th birthday (and walked out her front door to go to the hospital that day) was not a terribly social butterfly, but she “met” the people who came her way. The new Hispanic families at her church, the Somali grandma across the alley (followed by the Hmong granny who moved in next). She often said she “didn’t know” all the new people who had moved into the neighborhood, and yet she did.

    We also have a friend who is 85 who gets around on Metro Mobility and his scooter (he had polio as a child, but did learn to walk after some time w’ Sister Kenny). I know this partly because we see him at church, but mostly because we are Facebook friends. The waitstaff at his favorite hangouts know him, he goes to the opera, most of his friends are much younger than he is. He doesn’t pretend to be younger than he is, he just interacts easily with a wide range of people younger than he is.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Last week, I read a story about an 80-year woman who took cruises back to back for going on two years (this is a real story). When asked why she kept doing this, her answer was priceless: ” Your bed gets made every morning with fresh sheets; you get delicious meals any time around the clock for free; there’s entertainment every night; there’s a doctor on board; you can sit in a hot tub or pool anytime; people are friendly; there’s a gym; you get to see interesting islands; AND, it’s only $60 a day!!! I was paying $200 a day to sit in a nursing home with nothing to do and horrible food”.

    She’s right about the price (I’ve been on five annual cruises thus far). I just might take her lead in a few years!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. For the past year I have listened to Donald Trump’s surrogates pretzel logic explanations for what the candidate has said. Their mental and linguistic acrobatics have convinced me that despite the mind numbing affect on their listeners, they themselves have championship caliber synapses. I would like to accept the challenge of Trumpsplaining.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. i think hillary should do an early april fools joke and say she is dropping out of the race.
    then say hey i was just fooling

    let people reflect on president trump for just a heartbeat

    Like

    1. I personally am shocked and dismayed that so many of these cultists live among us. I’m also amused that in 2014, none of the democrats running to keep their jobs wanted Obama anywhere near them due to his low approval rating. Now that his approval rating is higher than any president in decades, they can’t get enough of him on the trail. Go figure.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. So, I challenge all Baboons to increase their Reserve and choose any old topic that takes their fancy and write something and send it to Dale. Write guest posts in the name of positive health practices.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ljb came up with a trailbaboons blog callendar for sign up of guest posts on a schedled basis instead of waiting for the fancy to strike us(thats not working so good

      i will submit a post every friday morning for the rest of october and november
      now if i can figre out what to do with the calendar we will have something

      Like

        1. Created and shared a google doc with you, tim. Everything you need to know about using and sharing google calendar. It’s in your hands, now.

          And, no, I didn’t sign up for a guest post yet. I will, though. One of these days.

          Like

  10. I’ll make a point related to Crystalbay’s post above. Travel can be a great way to boost cognitive reserves. You need some money and a certain level of health to travel–neither of which I have. But if your pocketbook and health allow travel, it is stimulating in ways almost nothing else can be.

    My mother-in-law and father-in-law were generous, loving people. They had a tall Victorian revival home with many bedrooms. Ray and Esther filled those rooms for decades with foreign students working on graduate programs at the U of MN. The foreign students were adopted like family members, eating with their hosts and sharing holiday celebrations. I think they welcomed about 60 students in their home over the years. When Ray and Esther retired they were able to take two tours of the world, staying for free in the homes of people who once had lived with them.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. I would guess that if your video resides somewhere on the internet (e.g. youtube), then you can post a link to it when you make a comment. I know that if I wanted to post one of my photos in a comment, I can post a link to it on Instagram or captureminnesota.com or my photos page on facebook, if I have the photo in one of those places. I don’t think there is a way to just upload a video or photo from your hard drive if you are commenting. If the video is for a guest post, then you can email it to Dale and have him post it.

      I think.

      Like

  11. Lots of great ideas here. I just hope reading a lot will do me some good, other than sometimes making me look smart when Jeopardy is on.

    Like

  12. My dad stayed physically active (umpped his last high school baseball game at the age of 88), met daily with a group of fellow WWII vets who were older than he was, read daily, and stayed busy doing volunteer work for the RSVP. He was clear as a bell when he died at 93. My mom was physically limited by MS, but stayed social with her friends, and kept her sense of humor. She died at 91 and had no dementia, either.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I will continue to work 2 days per week for the two people buying the practice and in February I will work 1 day per week in a practice in Savage. We go to AZ in Dec – Jan again. I will do telehealth with clients during that time.

        I would like to work PT as long as possible because I do not tolerate boredom well.

        RE: Feelings, wo-wo-wo, Feelings–presently I am really glad to sell the practice and anticipating a life without the BIG responsibility of running this. I was ready to step back about a year ago. Obviously that did not happen! So I feel stretched way too far right now which has been stressful. There may be some sadness under all this, but it will take some reality to get there, I think.

        Thanks for your interest.

        Liked by 3 people

  13. Morning all. I’m thinking of going to see Henrik Williams (world expert on runes) at the American Swedish Institute next Wednesday. He’s doing three classes. Unfortunately not free classes. Anybody else interested?

    Like

      1. I was thinking the first one. Swedish Viking Age Rune Stones. I can’t do the evening one and I think I’d prefer this to the mid-day one.

        Like

  14. This post is more appropriate to the previous topic, but it’s something I was just wondering about. It occurred to me that I don’t think I’ve seen a single political commercial this election cycle. That, of course, is because I almost never watch any of the commercial stations or even the cable channels. I typically watch PBS or I get programming online and I seldom can stand to watch more than about an hour of television at any one time.
    I have heard that the trend in television viewing is toward online and programming on demand and that makes me wonder how much of the vast expenditures on political advertising is reaching anybody? Judging by my email inbox, the political parties are still equating advertising expenditure with their chances of success, but I wonder if that’s still true?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. What I’ve noticed is that the higher up the political prize, the fewer tv commercials. I never see anything with either Hillary or the Donald and I don’t think I’ve seen anything for Ellison either. But there are lots of Paulsen and Bonhoff ads. And lots of ads against whoever the rich kid who used to have long hair but now doesn’t. (I don’t even know who this guy is running against!)

      And since I don’t click on anything online that even looks remotely like a political ad, the political commercials aren’t stressing me out as much this year. Good thing since the general situation has me PLENTY stressed out.

      Like

      1. That used-to-be long-haired heir to the Mills Fleet Farm fortune is Stewart Mills. He’s running against Rick Nolan. Jeopardy! time slot filled with political ads.

        Liked by 4 people

    2. I would guess the reason you’re not seeing a lot of political advertising is that there aren’t any statewide offices up for re-election (i.e., governor or Senate seats) this year. The presidential election is a non-issue here since Minnesota is not a swing state, so neither party will throw away money on TV ads here. . I’m sure the ads are saturating the airwaves in Florida, North Carolina, Iowa, and the other swing states. Locally, I’m seeing a lot of ads for Mills/Nolan, Bonoff/Paulsen, and Craig/Lewis, mostly in the local newscasts. They seem to be spending lots of money on those.

      Like

  15. OT: Liam update. I’m grinning after a delightful evening with my daughter and grandson. Liam is the most interesting kid I’ve encountered. He always was bright. He has long been unpredictable. My daughter finds him fascinating because even she doesn’t know what he will say next. He observes the world and draws his own conclusions about things.

    Now Liam has picked up manners. He has gone far beyond the pro forma “please” and “thank you” stuff. To my eyes, it seems he is having fun playing with manners almost like it is a new toy for him. At six he is not only “polite” but charming. The food server last night couldn’t get enough of him.

    When my daughter and I discussed the election, Liam asked which candidate I planned to support. When I told him, Liam said, “That’s good, Grampy. Donald Trump kisses women on the mouth without asking permission.”

    I sent Dale a potential blog with photos, but emailed it too late to be used today.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. My apologies to the group. When I sent Dale my latest offering, I appended photos to the email . . . but not the text. I’ve sent it now, but it is my fault I didn’t submit everything in time for Dale to post it.

    Like

  17. For many people the day the music died was with the airplane crash that took the life of Buddy Holly. For me the music died on Monday with the death of Bobby Vee.
    I would like to share more but I’m not sure how to go about that or even if it is appropriate.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Also appropriate to the original intent of this post, since Bobby Vee was a lifelong musician and he suffered from Alzheimer’s.

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        1. If you submit it to Dale, you should probably link to a photo that can be used as a header picture. As I should know, it looks weird to not have a header image. For example, you can just google Bobby Vee, select images, then click on Search Tools, then Usage Rights and choose Labeled for Reuse. So you’re not infringing on copyright.

          Like

        1. At the top left of thus site is a W. If you click the W there is a drop down menu that says, at the bottom, “add”. Lick the “add” and it will take you to a page on which you can type your post. Push the submit button , and it goes where Dale can read it. Some of us then email Dale to let him know it is there for him to read. I email photos to him to use with my posts, and he sometimes fonds photos for me.

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        1. For many people the day the music died was with the airplane crash that took the life of Buddy Holly. For me the music died on Monday, October 24, 2016 with the death of Bobby Vee. Holly, Ritchie Valens, J.P. Richardson (the Big Bopper) and pilot Roger Peterson left Clear Lake, Iowa for a flight to Fargo, North Dakota. They were to perform at the Moorhead, Minnesota Armory as a continuation of the Winter Party Dance tour. They never arrived as they died when the plane crashed into an Iowa cornfield, February 3, 1959. As news of the tragedy spread in the Fargo-Moorhead area, word went out for performers to substitute for the lost tour members. Fifteen year old Robert Velline and his newly formed group volunteered, were chosen to play and the show went on. The Shadows, as they called themselves on the spot, were well received and Bobby Vee went on to a stellar career before succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease. My parents attended that event. It’s not that they were big rock and roll fans but we lived just a short walk from the Armory in Moorhead and were acquaintances of the Velline family. So they went as a show of support for Bobby and his brother Bill, one of the guitar players in the band. My sisters and I remained at home with Grandma. I have no recollection of disappointment in being excluded from “making the scene.” Seeing as how I was only 6, the entertainment value would likely have been lost on me.

          Over the years, the significance of the deaths and dance became more pronounced for me. Collecting the recordings was a given. I’m not big into memorabilia but if only Dad and Mom had kept those ticket stubs what a treasure they would be! I became a fan of Holly and Vee. Not so for my parents. It never seemed to matter much to them that they had been part of music history. I have been able to piece together a pretty good picture of what they experienced. They were in their late twenties so were a bit out of place among a crowd of teenagers. Not surprisingly, given my Dad’s two left feet, they didn’t dance at all. They did watch the Shadows perform but left early and didn’t see Dion and The Belmonts.

          Time marches on and it is now the late sixties. KQWB radio began promoting a celebrity basketball team composed of the station’s DJ’s and a few college players. The advertising spot included a sampling of the backup singers for Bobby Vee’s hit record, “Rubber Ball” which in 1968 was now a golden oldie. They sang, “Bouncy, Bouncy. Bouncy, Bouncy.” KQWB 1550 was always on our car and home radios so we heard that little jingle frequently. Well, my Father swore that Bobby Vee had sung that song in 1959. The song wasn’t recorded until 1961 but no amount of evidence could disabuse him of the notion that he had heard it years before. The Vellines were no longer in our social circle, so there was no appeal to authority from that source. Now with the Internet, it is easy to prove how wrong he was but back when I was in high school, information resources were rather meager and it was probably best to let the matter drop in any case. But every once in a while the “issue” would come up. Dad would reaffirm his theory that many musicians play songs before they record them. The fact that Gene Pitney and Aaron Schroeder wrote the song, not Bobby Vee, leaves him unfazed. The mysterious song had become part of a conspiracy. The voices in Dad’s head are like a rubber ball going “bouncy, bouncy.”

          Do you have a favorite conspiracy theory?

          Liked by 1 person

  18. Thanks for the story, Wes. I always thought it was interesting timing when Paul Wellstone died, but no one ever seemed to seriously pursue that, to my knowledge.

    That plane crash – I lived in Storm Lake IA, at the time, and my mom taught music/English in a rural jr.high/high school that year. One of her students was the sister of the pilot who also died in that crash… possibly the only reason I remember it, as I wasn’t really into the rock and roll scene yet.

    Like

  19. This was an uplifting read. Ty for sharing. I have felt my blogging was a great coping mechanism for my recovery process and new normals….it is nice to see validation on this.

    Like

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