Rush University Medical Center

Health Information Being a Bookworm May Boost Brainpower

A new study offers more proof that an engaged brain can keep you sharp in old age.

Do you remember your favorite book from when you were a kid? If you continue reading throughout your life, there's reason to suggest you'll never forget it.

According to results from a study published July 3 in Neurology by neurological researchers at Rush University Medical Center, reading, writing and other brain-stimulating activities may preserve memory as you age.

"Taking part in these activities is important across a person's lifetime, from infancy through old age," says Robert Wilson, PhD, the lead author of the study and neuropsychologist at the Rush Alzheimer's Disease Center.

Recalling the Results

Researchers gave 294 older people tests that measured memory and thinking every year for an average of about six years. The participants were also asked if they read books, wrote or participated in other mentally stimulating activities during childhood, adolescence, middle age and at their current age.

After the participants died, their brains were examined for physical signs of dementia, including plaques, tangles and strokes. After controlling for the physical signs of dementia, researchers found that people who participated in mentally stimulating activities had a slower rate of memory decline compared to those who did not participate in such activities.

How often you do these activities makes a difference, too. The study found that people who reported the most brain-stimulating activities later in life slowed their memory decline by 32 percent more than those with average mental activity. Participants who had the lowest mental stimulation had a 48 percent faster memory decline than those with average mental activity.

"You, your children, your parents and your grandparents can all stay mentally sharp by participating in activities such as reading and writing every day," Wilson says.


You Might Also Like ...

Please note: All physicians featured in Discover Rush Online are on the medical faculty of Rush University Medical Center. Some of the physicians featured are in private practice and, as independent practitioners, are not agents or employees of Rush University Medical Center.

If you enjoyed this article and are not already a subscriber, subscribe today to Discover Rush Online. You'll receive health information, breaking medical news and helpful tips for maintaining your health via e-mail. To subscribe, send an e-mail to

September 2013

© Rush University Medical Center, Chicago, Illinois