Posted on Dec 24, 2009, 6 a.m.
Johns Hopkins (USA) study suggests that women who volunteer experience increases in brain activity in regions key to cognitive function.
Engaging in volunteer activities may help to promote optimal cognitive function. Michelle C. Carlson, from The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (Maryland, USA), and colleagues studied women engaged in the Experience Corps, a social service program comprised of volunteer seniors, who tutored young children as part of their assignment. Utilizing functional MRI, the researchers found that after six months of volunteering, the women demonstrated significant increases in brain activity in regions important to cognitive function, specifically the anterior cingulate cortex, left dorsal prefrontal cortex, and left ventral prefrontal cortex. Explaining that: “Neural gains were matched by behavioral improvements in executive inhibitory ability,” the team concludes that: “These pilot results provide proof of concept for use-dependent brain plasticity in later life, and, that interventions designed to promote health and function through everyday activity may enhance plasticity in key regions that support executive function.”
Michelle C. Carlson, Kirk I. Erickson, Arthur F. Kramer, Michelle W. Voss, Natalie Bolea, Michelle Mielke, Sylvia McGill, George W. Rebok, Teresa Seeman, Linda P. Fried. “Evidence for Neurocognitive Plasticity in At-Risk Older Adults: The Experience Corps Program.” J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci, December 2009; 64A: 1275 - 1282.