In the last decades, brain fitness, a concept born in the USA which advocates training the brain, has emerged. It includes all leisure and daily activities that keep the mind active and can be cognitively stimulating.
Included in these activities are various games such as chess, playing a musical instrument, reading, writing, etc.
Such activities can have beneficial effects directly on brain structures that support cognition, such as the hippocampus, a memory-related brain structure.
There is scientific evidence to suggest that routinely engaging in this type of cognitively stimulating activity helps to slow cognitive decline related to ageing, since it often requires managing different elements at the same time and, consequently, an effort of attention, concentration and memory.
Cognitively stimulating activities
A recent study has investigated the relationship between learning, performing cognitively stimulating activities and an improvement in cognitive functions.
The participants of this study were divided into three groups that engaged in different productive activities (for approx 15 hours a week) over a period of three months.
A first group learned digital photography (i.e. taking pictures and using a computer program to edit them), which is a demanding activity for executive functions, long-term memory and reasoning.
A second group of people learned to design and sew bedspreads using a computerised sewing machine, an activity that stimulates visual-spatial working memory and reasoning ability.
A third group did one of the two activities for one month and a half, and then did the other one for another month and a half.
After this three-month period, the participants in the three groups improved their episodic memory capabilities, confirming that the practice of complex cognitively stimulating activities can have an impact on the improvement of cognitive functions.