Orientation can train the brain, can help fight cognitive decline

Find a new path: Orientation can train the brain, can help fight cognitive decline

Orientation: Researchers at McMaster found that orientation participants reported better spatial navigation and memory, suggesting the sport may be beneficial in combating cognitive decline . Credit: Kayla Da Silva/McMaster University

Directed sport, based on athleticism, navigational skills, and memory, may be useful as an intervention or prevention measure to combat cognitive decline, according to new McMaster University research. knowledge related to memory loss.

The researchers hypothesize that the physical and cognitive demands of orientation, which integrates exercise with navigation, may stimulate the parts of the brain that our ancient ancestors used to hunting and gathering. The brain evolved thousands of years ago to adapt to harsh environments by creating new neural pathways.

Those same brain functions are no longer necessary for survival today due to the availability of modern conveniences like GPS apps and food availability. It’s a case of “use it or lose it,” the researchers say.

“Modern life may lack the specific cognitive and physical challenges that our brains face,” said Jennifer Heisz, Canada Research Chair in Brain Health and Aging at McMaster University, who oversaw the study. The brain needs to grow. “In the absence of active navigation, we risk losing that neural architecture.”

Heisz points out that Alzheimer’s disease, where the loss of the ability to find your way is one of the earliest symptoms, affects half of all sufferers, even in the mildest stages of the disease.

In the study, published today in the journal PLEASE ONEsurvey researchers healthy adultsare between the ages of 18 and 87 with varying degrees of orientation expertise (none, intermediate, advanced and elite).

Participants oriented better reporting space navigation and memory, suggesting that adding pathfinding elements to regular workouts could provide benefits throughout life.

“When it comes to brain training, the physical and cognitive demands of orientation are likely,” said lead author Emma Waddington, a graduate student in the Department of Kinesiology who designed the study. gives you more money than just exercising.” is also a coach and member of the national orientation team.

The goal of navigation is to navigate by running as fast as possible through unfamiliar territory, finding a series of checkpoints using only the map and compass. The most skilful athletes have to efficiently switch between several mental tasks, making quick decisions while moving across the terrain at a fast pace.

The sport is unique because it requires active navigation while making quick transitions between parts of the game. brain that process information about the universe in different ways. For example, reading a map depends on a third-person perspective in relation to the environment. Facilitators must quickly translate that information in relation to their own place in the environment, in real time, as they run the course.

It’s a skill that GPS systems have designed since modern life, the researchers said. That could affect not only our ability to navigate but also our spatial processing and memory more generally because these cognitive functions are based on overlapping neural structures.

The researchers suggest that there are two simple ways to incorporate more navigation into everyday life: turn off GPS and use maps to find your way around and challenge yourself—spatially— using a new route to run, walk, or cycle.

“Orientation is a sport for life,” says Waddington. “You can often see participants between the ages of 6 and 86 doing orientation.” “My long involvement in the sport has allowed me to understand the process behind learning navigation skills and I was inspired to study the uniqueness of oriented running and the scientific significance the sport can have for an aging population,” Waddington said.

More information:
Emma Waddington et al., orientation experts report more proficient spatial processing and memory in adulthood, PLEASE ONE (2023).

quote: Finding a New Way: Orientation Can Train the Brain, May Help Fight Cognitive Decline (2023, January 20) retrieved January 20, 2023 from /news/2023-01-brain-cognitive-decline.html

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