Staff Reporter

Thrissur: A conference on ‘Geriatric mental health’, organised by the Indian Association for Geriatric Mental Health (IAGMH) here on Sunday observed that ‘cognitive reserve’ may delay onset of dementia.

‘Cognitive reserve’ refers to the mind’s resilience to neuropathological brain damage. Chittaranjan Andrade, professor of Psychopharmacology from the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, said that brain had large number of neurons capable of carrying out cognitive activities such as memory.

‘Cognitive decline’

“These neurons are interconnected and each neuron is connected to at least a thousand others. If we use neurons for cognitive tasks, they will develop more such links. A person engaging in cognitive activities will have a better developed network of neurons. This will increase his ‘cognitive reserve’. Better cognitive reserve fights cognitive decline in old age,” he said.

Not much cheer, however, for couch potatoes. For, passive activities such as watching TV do not build ‘cognitive reserve’. Only activities such as reading, organising, calculating and problem-solving do.

Physical exercise

Dr. Andrade referred to the positive effects of physical exercise in preventing cognitive disorders. Aerobics help prevent or delay onset of cognitive problems.

Rajeev Kumar, associate professor with the Australian National University, spoke on the importance of early identification and management of mild cognitive impairment, a condition different from but more common than dementia.

"It denotes a slightly impaired cognitive state. Early identification of those affected by mild cognitive impairment will help," he added. M. V. Varunny of Sacred Heart Hospital, Pullur; M. Thiruvanavakkarasu, professor of Psychiatry with the Stanley Medical College, Chennai; and K. S. Jacob, head of the Department of Psychiatry of Christian Medical College, Vellur, also spoke.