What if they told you now that you have in your hands the possibility of “planning” your future and choosing the quality of your life? It may seem like something impossible to conceive. However, the concept of cognitive reserve is related to the idea that people can proactively take care of their brain health.
How does it show research published through neuropsychologythis concept suggests that this reserve plays a key role in the prevention of brain diseases like Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, it also mediates its evolution and possible complications. Let’s see what it is.
Cognitive reserve and its role in brain damage
Through the concept of “cognitive reserve” we try to explain why two people with the same neuropathology show clinical signs of different intensity. And it is that the one with the best reserve experiences fewer – or milder – symptoms of dementia than the one who has “depleted” it.
The importance of this explanatory hypothesis lies in the fact that if cognitive reserve has all this potential that is attributed to it as a protective factor, it is also beneficial when it comes to Prevent disease such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s, among others.
In this case, those with optimal reserve would show symptoms later and the evolution of the disease will be slower. Of course, it’s not about being naive and overestimating the capacity of the cognitive reserve to turn it into a “panacea”, capable of preventing any disease or brain damage.
However, we must bear in mind that it is not the same to grow old with a healthy and well-groomed body following an exercise routine, as it is to do it with one completely neglected. When faced with an adversity situation, both will react differently and require more or less recovery measures. The same thing happens with the brain.
This master organ – which commands life – if it receives stimuli and treatments, also strengthens its neural circuits, its functioning, remains active and in training. This way, manages to be better prepared for different circumstances.
Explanatory models of cognitive reserve
Like all scientific theories, cognitive reserve has been addressed by different approaches. There are also postulates in favor and there are other detractors, who believe that it is a question of creating a new concept to explain already known facts.
For example, some experts point out that it is the well-known «brain plasticity», which refers to the brain’s ability to adapt, be flexible, and recreate new ways of doing things.
On the other hand, there are also some methodological difficulties in corroborating the hypothesis, as retrospective and cross-sectional studies are needed. In general terms, the explanatory models revolve around two propositions.
Also known as “passive models”. It refers to the activity of pre-existing networks so that the brain or its damaged areas continue to function after being damaged.
Some call them “active models”. He explains that, after suffering neural damage, the brain reorganizes itself, choosing and using different neural circuits, in an attempt to maintain balance and compensate for the existing damage.
Under this model we speak of compensation because it is the mechanisms or strategies that are brought into play they don’t optimize or improve performance, they make it possible. That is, if it wasn’t compensated for, performance or brain function would decrease.
It is worth noting that, for specialists, these are not necessarily exclusive models.
How to enrich the cognitive reserve?
There are several activities to develop a “resilient brain”. Since cognitive reserve implies dynamism and activity, it also contemplates cultural, social and physical factors, among others.
For example, Within the cultural ones, the role of education and literacy stands out. It is assumed that people who are more educated, who spend time studying, reading, writing, or who speak two or more languages, have a valuable cognitive reserve.
So let’s see some activities that strengthen this reserve:
- Establish social relationships, talk about different topics and connect with people who think differently.
- Practice exercise and sports.
- Having a hobby.
- Rest and sleep well.
- Maintain a healthy diet.
- Avoid the consumption of drugs, tobacco, alcohol.
- learn new things, such as a language, a musical instrument, a sport, etc.
- Perform the same task differently. For example, if you always use your right hand to pour a drink, use your left hand.
In summary, you can see how the suggested activities to consolidate cognitive reserve are simple and varied.
Avoid simplistic approaches
Beyond the explanatory models and their positions, if there is anything that cognitive reserve can teach us, it is the idea of complexity, network and connections. Of the parts that make up the whole.
Again, this is not about reducing or simplifying statements that involve multiple factors and are very complex. That said, when higher levels of education are associated with higher cognitive reserve, contextual aspects must also be considered.
In this sense, accessing literacy and dedicating oneself to study requires certain material conditions and socio-economic status, which in turn reduce exposure to other risk or harmful factors.
That is, these people could benefit from a healthier lifestyle, which has an impact in terms of care or maintenance of cognitive reserve. Therefore, the environment also plays a major role in “shaping” the circumstances of life.
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