Doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s never too late to learn something new. In fact, later life learning has often been linked with improved cognitive health. But now, scientists say learning several new things at the same time is even better for your brain.
According to researchers from the University of California Riverside, people may be able to stave off any decline in their cognitive functioning as they get older by learning as they did when they were a child. In other words, soak up as much new information on as many things as possible – don’t just settle for learning one skill at a time.
And they proved it by putting their theory to the test. Their study – published in the Journals of Gerentology – took a group of 42 people aged 58 – 86 and enrolled them in three to five different classes for three months, such as painting and drawing, language classes, photography, music composition and computer studies. Each volunteer did at least 15 hours of classes each week, and also spent time doing assignments at home.
After just six weeks the volunteers increased their thinking and memory abilities to levels that were similar as people 30 years younger. Meanwhile participants who didn’t take any classes at all didn’t show any change in their cognitive performance.
“The take-home message is that older adults can learn multiple new skills at the same time, and doing so may improve their cognitive functioning,” says one of the study’s authors, UCR psychologist Rachel Wu. “The participants in the intervention bridged a 30-year difference in cognitive abilities after just six weeks and maintained these abilities while learning multiple new skills.”
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