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The Boston Globe

Health & wellness

Intellectual pursuits key to preventing Alzheimer’s disease?

Reading, playing a variety of games, and engaging in other intellectual pursuits on a daily basis over the course of a lifetime could help prevent the formation of amyloid plaques that gunk up the brain and are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease. But we may need to get our brains engaged early in life -- years or decades before we start to forget things -- to reap the most benefits.

In the first study of its kind, researchers used positron emission tomography scans to examine the amount of beta amyloid deposits in the brains of healthy seniors with no memory loss, confusion, or other signs of dementia and found that those who reported doing daily brainy activities from the age of six onward had very low levels of amyloid plaque -- on par with of an average person in their early 20s. Those who never or rarely engaged in these activities had higher plaque levels, on average, nearly akin to those with Alzheimer’s disease, according to the study published online today in the Archives of Neurology.

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