Playing Chess Could Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease
26 Nov, 2012 - 03:45am
Alzheimer’s disease is considered the most common form of dementia (a neurologic condition that is characterized by loss of mental ability). The severity of the loss of mental ability might highly affect the daily activities of the patients. This condition is not acquired during birth; it is usually associated with old age. It basically affects a person’s cognitive functions, which include remembering, planning and reasoning.
A person with this kind of disease will gradually feel a decline in his or her mental functions, which usually result to loss of ability to perform daily tasks as well as the inability to plan and execute familiar tasks. He or she will also be unable to make effective reasoning and exercise realistic judgment.
Among the possible signs of Alzheimer’s disease, aside from memory loss, are: time and place disorientation, things misplacement as well as change in personality, moods and behaviors. He or she might also have problems with language and abstract thinking.
In a study presented during the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) annual meeting held last November 25, 2012, the preservation of the structural integrity of an older person’s brain was discussed. It was showed that mental activities can help preserve the health of one’s brain even during old age.
An older study also showed a strong relationship between late-life cognitive activities and mental acuity. It has been tested that reading newspapers, visiting libraries, writing letters, playing checkers and chess can contribute in making a person’s brain healthier.
Chess as we all know is a two-player strategy board game which is played by people worldwide either at home, online, in-clubs or tournaments as well as by correspondence. The goal of this game is to checkmate the opponent’s king which usually happens when the king is positioned in a manner where it cannot escape. This game has been highly associated with mental training, since it enhances the players’ intelligence and personality skills.
During the study the researchers used the diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) method which generates data regarding diffusion anisotropy. Diffusion anisotropy is used to measure the movement of water molecules in the brain. This measurement shows that water moves easily parallel to the direction of the brain’s axons. On the other hand, it moves less easily perpendicular to the axons direction. The value of the diffusion anisotropy increases depending on the difference of the diffusion rates on the different axon’s directions. Diffusion anisotropy reaches as higher measurement when that is more diffusion happening in only one direction compared to the other directions. This value starts to gradually drop starting at the age of 30.
An analyzed data on some 152 elderly participants of the study showed that the frequency of cognitive activities, like reading newspapers and playing chess, during late life has a significant association to the higher diffusion anisotropy values in the brain. These participants did not have mild cognitive impairment and even dementia according to their clinical evaluation. During a one year period they engaged in cognitive mental activities and after this period they underwent a brain MRI which showed that the cognitive activities that they engaged to kept their brains occupied has contributed in increasing their diffusion anisotropy rate.
This strongly gives us the idea that keeping our brains busy during our late life does have positive outcomes.