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Resilience
 

Cartoon caracter walking with ski poles in a stormThe idea of a reserve against brain disease or brain damage came about because scientists, doctors and other health professionals repeatedly noticed that the severity of damage or disease in the brain is not always related to the severity of symptoms.

For example, two people can sustain a brain injury or stroke of the same magnitude: one person may experience severe impairment while the other experiences minimal impairment.

The term ‘cognitive reserve’ is used to explain how some people seem to maintain cognitive function (including memory and the ability to plan tasks and pay attention) even when there is damage or disease in their brain.

Research into cognitive reserve got a boost in 1989 with the discovery of some individuals who had the physical signs of Alzheimer’s Disease in their brains after they died, yet in life they had shown little signs of cognitive decline.

Since then research in the area has exploded – we now know that 25% of people who fulfil the criteria for Alzheimer’s Disease during autopsy did not show clinical signs of the disease before they died.

Cognitive reserve is now being studied in several diseases, including MS, which affect the brain. Could cognitive reserve explain why some people with MS can withstand considerable brain wasting and lesions without cognitive impairment? At the time of writing, several studies point to that conclusion. Research suggests that all other things being equal, people with MS with high cognitive reserve lose less cognitive function than people with MS with low cognitive reserve.

It suggests that some people can find ways around the physical changes associated with MS – the brain actively tries to cope with damage by using pre-existing efficient cognitive processes or by recruiting other parts or processes in the brain – much like finding side-roads to avoid a traffic jam on a major highway to still get to the destination.

Some ‘experience’ factors are linked with having apparently high cognitive reserve, such as how much education a person has had, and how a person engages with the world around them.

People with MS with greater brain reserves, greater vocabulary knowledge and/or greater participation in cognitive leisure activities such as reading or other hobbies typically seem better able to preserve cognitive function.

So it seems that you may be able to build up this reserve, this ‘money in the brain bank’.

 

 
 
Hello Brain For more info on brain health visit Hello Brain
 

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