Health benefits of brain games

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Health benefits of brain games

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Wed Aug 02, 2017 12:06 pm


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JustinHorton
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Re: Health benefits of brain games

Post by JustinHorton » Wed Aug 02, 2017 12:23 pm

Good Lord
"Do you play chess?"
"Yes, but I prefer a game with a better chance of cheating."

lostontime.blogspot.com

Adam Ashton
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Re: Health benefits of brain games

Post by Adam Ashton » Wed Aug 02, 2017 12:32 pm

"For example, there was no evidence that playing sudoku would help you manage your finances any better, it added."

I'm guessing this report doesn't carry much scientific weight.

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Christopher Kreuzer
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Re: Health benefits of brain games

Post by Christopher Kreuzer » Wed Aug 02, 2017 12:43 pm

Have been trying to work out what the Global Council on Brain Health is.

"The Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) is an independent collaborative of scientists, doctors, scholars and policy experts convened by AARP to provide the best thinking on what people and professionals can do to maintain and improve brain health. AARP founded the GCBH in collaboration with Age UK, which is the United Kingdom's largest charity dedicated to helping everyone make the most of later life."

https://stayingsharp.zendesk.com/hc/en- ... in-Health-

Now to find out what Staying Sharp and AARP are....

https://stayingsharp.aarp.org/

http://www.aarp.org/

AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) appears to be the US equivalent of Age UK.

Brain health also appears to be big business now.

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JustinHorton
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Re: Health benefits of brain games

Post by JustinHorton » Wed Aug 02, 2017 12:57 pm

"Do you play chess?"
"Yes, but I prefer a game with a better chance of cheating."

lostontime.blogspot.com

NickFaulks
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Re: Health benefits of brain games

Post by NickFaulks » Wed Aug 02, 2017 1:45 pm

Adam Ashton wrote:I'm guessing this report doesn't carry much scientific weight.
What do you mean? It's written by experts and reported by the BBC. It would be a terrible waste of their salaries and our licence fees to ignore it.

Kevin Thurlow
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Re: Health benefits of brain games

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:23 pm

Goodwin - (from Justin's link) "He has a Visiting Professorship in Ageing at Loughborough University."

Loughborough hasn't even got its own ageing professor?

NickFaulks
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Re: Health benefits of brain games

Post by NickFaulks » Wed Aug 02, 2017 2:33 pm

Kevin Thurlow wrote:Goodwin - (from Justin's link)Loughborough hasn't even got its own ageing professor?
It's only been a university since 1966, give it time.

Jonathan Bryant
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Re: Health benefits of brain games

Post by Jonathan Bryant » Wed Aug 02, 2017 5:26 pm

Christopher Kreuzer wrote:Playing brain games 'of little benefit', say experts (BBC)

Food for thought?
Not really. It’s consistent with the evidence over the last several years. E.g. this post from October 2014

http://streathambrixtonchess.blogspot.c ... enter.html

discusses a report from the Stanford Center for Longevity which says more or less the same thing.

That said, the usual caveats apply:-
It’s not wise to form judgements based on (a) news article(s) alone
beware news articles that have "say experts" in the headline.


Doctor Coyle’s conclusion from 2003 - particularly the final sentence - still seems to be our best summary of where we are in this area:-

... participation in cognitively demanding leisure activities in late life may provide protection against dementia,
...
Determining the relative contributions of genes that confer risk and environmental factors such as effortful mental activity to the pathogenesis of dementia remains an important but unrealized goal in research on dementia. In the meantime, seniors should be encouraged to read, play board games, and go ballroom dancing, because these activities, at the very least, enhance their quality of life, and they might just do more than that.



(see http://streathambrixtonchess.blogspot.c ... coyle.html for full reference)

MartinCarpenter
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Re: Health benefits of brain games

Post by MartinCarpenter » Wed Aug 02, 2017 8:05 pm

True, especially as I think its fairly well established that enhanced QOL almost automatically means healthier in a bunch of ways.

IanCalvert
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Re: Health benefits of brain games

Post by IanCalvert » Wed Aug 02, 2017 11:55 pm

Maybe it depends on how you play: Chess for Tigers is good ! : Chess for Heffalumps ?

Jonathan Bryant
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Re: Health benefits of brain games

Post by Jonathan Bryant » Thu Aug 03, 2017 7:50 am

IanCalvert wrote:Maybe it depends on how you play ....
My earlier comments about the reliability of news articles about scientific studies notwithstanding, the sixth paragraph of the BBC report suggests that it does.


Coming back to this:-
Adam Ashton wrote: I'm guessing this report doesn't carry much scientific weight.


In my experience, there isn’t usually anything wrong with the original research. The problems are in the reporting and over-interpretation of results by journalists and the PR agencies/departments that create the story in the first place.

Kevin Thurlow
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Re: Health benefits of brain games

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Thu Aug 03, 2017 9:11 am

https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/2000 ... dementia/3

shows main causes of dementia. As most of these have physical causes, it is unlikely that playing chess, scrabble, bridge etc. will usually have much effect. However, it is noticeable that professional footballers recover from broken legs much quicker than people who are not very fit. Of course they're getting expensive medical treatment as well. So it is reasonable to assume that keeping the brain active might help a bit. In my own case, when I suffered a stroke some years ago, (about a year after doing Countdown), someone came round the ward testing my ability to do word games.
Much to my relief, I was able to do all of them easily. It is reasonable to assume that I did OK as I was at least previously fit that way. Of course, measuring mental ability is rather difficult.

Doing mental games will almost certainly not prevent dementia, but it might help a bit. And it will probably make you feel better, (as you are doing something you enjoy), which is good psychology.

Jonathan Bryant
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Re: Health benefits of brain games

Post by Jonathan Bryant » Thu Aug 03, 2017 3:18 pm

Hello Kevin,

Lot’s to talk about in your post. In short, I’m much more optimistic about the potential for chess to have a positive impact in this area.
Kevin Thurlow wrote: Doing mental games will almost certainly not prevent dementia,
(my emphasis)

We can happily drop the "almost" from that sentence.

We know playing 'mental games' - however we define them - doesn’t prevent dementia because we know that nothing prevents dementia.

I suppose we could argue that in theory the evidence might become available at some point in the future - but in practice it’s not going to.

Dementia is a complex illness with complex causes - it’s not going to be amenable to simple solutions. The oft misrepresented Verghese study - e.g. discussed here http://streathambrixtonchess.blogspot.c ... -bark.html - was published back in 2003. It was the result of a 21 year research programme. That takes us back to the early 80s - and Verghese and his colleagues weren’t even the first to look at this area.

Fact is, the research in this field dates back decades. If there was ever going to be proof that playing chess / similar games prevented dementia we’d have found it by now.

Chess / 'mental games' aren’t going to be the way to prevent dementia. They might well turn out to be part of a mult-faceted solution but at that’s something rather different.


Kevin Thurlow wrote:https://www.alzheimers.org.uk/info/2000 ... dementia/3

... shows main causes of dementia. As most of these have physical causes, it is unlikely that playing chess, scrabble, bridge etc. will usually have much effect.
This is 'true' but rather misses the point.

So, yes, Vascular dementia is caused by strokes so playing chess/scrabble/bridge etc isn’t going to cut the incidence of this form of dementia unless you can show that they prevent strokes (which seems unlikely, to say the least).

The thing is, though, it’s long been known that the amount of brain damage caused by the dementia is not correlated to impact on cognitive function. So some folks have significant damage to their brains but have relatively little cognitive impairment whilst others expect much more impact from less physical damage.

This is what the concept of cognitive reserve is all about.

The other point is that Alzheimer’s Disease is far and way the most common form of dementia*. Alzheimer’s disease does seem amenable to the possibility of an intellectually stimulating life-style building cognitive reserve. Protecting against dementia (delaying onset, slowing progression) rather than preventing, but that’s still quite an intervention if you can make it work.
Kevin Thurlow wrote: it is reasonable to assume that keeping the brain active might help a bit
(again - my emphasis)

Not just reasonable to assume It’s well-known that an intellectual life-style can help protect against dementia. The key point here is what "a bit" means.

We also know that early years education, not being depressed, diet, physical exercise, avoiding smoking / excessive alcohol consumption are also associated with above averagely favourable dementia outcomes. How much does playing chess help compared to the others?

To put it another way - from a dementia intervention point of view, would chess club members do better to spend their time going for a walk / cooking better food etc.

Kevin Thurlow wrote: And it will probably make you feel better, (as you are doing something you enjoy), which is good psychology.
Yup, doing stuff that you enjoy is the key to Dr. Coyle’s argument - and something that is entirely overlooked by the chess - dementia bullshitters.

Let’s say we can demonstrate that chess club members have more favourable dementia outcomes compared to the general population. Let’s say we control for race, class and other factors and we find the effect continues. Does that mean everybody should play chess to help with dementia?

Of course not. There’s no reason at all to think that people taking up a hobby purely for health reasons would get the same outcomes as those who do it for intrinsic love of the activity. Every reason to think otherwise, in fact.



In summary, there’s no place for bull**it or hyperbole but every reason to think that chess programmes - alongside other interventions - are a potentially good thing to do. In any event, they can improve the quality of life and may do more than that.




btw: for anybody interested in pursuing the academic research in this area, there’s a lot of easily accessible material listed here:-
http://streathambrixtonchess.blogspot.c ... -pile.html





* I’m glossing over the whole issue of mixed dementias here just to try to avoid this post going on for ever.

Kevin Thurlow
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Re: Health benefits of brain games

Post by Kevin Thurlow » Fri Aug 04, 2017 9:41 am

I was being cautious!

"The other point is that Alzheimer’s Disease is far and way the most common form of dementia*. Alzheimer’s disease does seem amenable to the possibility of an intellectually stimulating life-style building cognitive reserve. Protecting against dementia (delaying onset, slowing progression) rather than preventing, but that’s still quite an intervention if you can make it work."

I can provide one example (not hundreds). A former boss played bridge and worked on complex scientific matters, but it was very clear in his 50s that he got confused, and it was no surprise that now in his early 70s, he has Alzheimer's. To give a sort of "Ladybird Book" definition, Alzheimer's is "early-onset dementia". It may be that his work and bridge delayed it, but that is difficult to measure.

After I had my stroke, I continued watching Countdown and playing chess. Both helped me measure my recovery. I averaged just under 100 points a game when I was on the programme (of course difficulty of letters/numbers can affect that), and I was clearly worse after the stroke, but got better. One woman wrote in to the programme and said she had had a stroke but carried on watching and started getting 3 letter words, then a bit better and was metaphorically dancing round the room when she got a 9-letter word. Similarly, my chess grade plummeted and then started going up again. Initially, I didn't care about the grade and I was scared to think too hard, but got over that a couple of years later.

But I'm not saying if your grade goes down it's because you have a brain injury!

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