Staying social can boost healthy ‘gray matter’ in aging brains


US NEWS (HealthDay News) —Older adults who get together with friends, volunteer, or go to classes have healthier brains, which could help them ward off dementia, according to a new study using brain imaging to examine brain areas involved in mental decline. Being socially engaged—even moderately—with at least one relative or friend activates parts of the brain needed to recognize familiar faces and emotions, make decisions, and feel rewarded, the study found.

"We need to do more research on the details, but that's the beauty of this—social engagement costs hardly anything, and we do not have to worry about side effects," said lead author Dr. Cynthia Felix, a geriatrician and postdoctoral associate in epidemiology at Pitt Public Health. "There is no cure for dementia, which has tremendous costs in terms of treatment and caregiving. Preventing dementia, therefore, has to be the focus. It's the 'use it or lose it' philosophy when it comes to the brain," she said. 

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