05:48pm Friday 22 November 2019

Keeping our minds active into old age


Does doing the daily crossword, completing a Sudoko puzzle or playing a computer game really keep you mentally active as you get older?

How can we do to keep our minds agile and  fit?

These questions will be explored by the head of the University of Tasmania’s School of Medicine, Professor James Vickers, when he gives a free public lecture in Launceston on Wednesday, 20 October.

The lecture will open the 2010 Collaborative Graduate Research Symposium, which will be held in Launceston on Thursday, 21 October, and Friday, 22 October.

Prof. Vickers’ lecture, titled “Can we make our brains last longer? Brain plasticity and neuroprotection in ageing” will explore some of science’s previous misconceptions about the development and ‘plasticity’ of the brain, and the secrets researchers are now beginning to uncover on the dynamic properties of the human nervous system.

Prof. Vickers said new research was being conducted into brain plasticity that could have ramifications for people at risk of developing dementia, or those who had sustained a brain injury.

“It used to be the thought that our brains were very structurally plastic as we were growing up but, once we got to adulthood, that was kind of it,” Prof. Vickers said.

“Now we know through laboratory studies that there is a lot of structural plasticity — the ability for the cells to change their shapes and connections and, in some parts of the brain, to even generate new brain cells — which continues into adulthood and presumably old age.”

Prof. Vickers will also talk about the Healthy Brain Project, a joint initiative between the University of Tasmania and the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre.

“The Healthy Brain Project is trying to encourage people to consider complex mental stimulation as they age as a way of reducing their risk of developing dementia,” Prof. Vickers explained.

“We need people between the ages of 50 and 70 to come back to university and do part time or full time courses so we can follow them over a number of years to discover if the complex mental stimulation that hopefully we are getting at uni might be helpful in terms of the risk of cognitive decline during ageing.

“There is a substantial amount of scientific literature on this that shows that the more education you have when you are younger reduces the risk when you are older of getting dementia. But no one has yet looked at what happens when you get this kind of stimulation when you are an older adult.”

Professor James Vickers is the head of the University of Tasmania’s School of Medicine, Professor of Pathology and co-director of the Wicking Dementia Research and Education Centre.

What: Free public lecture, “Can we make our brains last longer? Brain plasticity and neuroprotection in ageing”, presented by Prof. James Vickers.

Date: Wednesday, 20 October 2010.

Time: 6-8pm, light refreshments on arrival.

Where: Lecture theatre 5, Sir Raymond Ferrall Centre, Newnham campus, Launceston.

To book your seat: Phone Kim Izard on (03) 6324 4051.

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