Healthy and Happy: How a fit Brain keeps your mood up
Just as the efficiency of a computer is directly affected by the time it needs to process a certain amount of information, one of the most important factors of our brain fitness is the speed of processing. It is also one of brain’s features that is most sensitive to the effects of ageing, so that following a rapid increase through adolescence and a short-term stability in young adulthood, it decreases just as rapidly after middle age.
Luckily, research has shown that processing speed can be maintained and even improved by training. Now a new study reveals that speed of processing training also decreases depressive symptoms in older adults.
Improve Happiness through brain training? Yes!
In this recent study by researchers from the Tohoku University in Japan, 72 older adults were randomly divided into two groups: one group attended processing speed training whereas the other group attended a knowledge quiz training game.
Both groups trained five times per week for 15 minutes over a four week training period. Before and after training the participants’ cognitive functions and emotional states were assessed in different tests.
The researchers found that the participants in the processing speed training group had improved cognitive functions but also decreased depressive symptoms after the training intervention.
Keep a fit and happy mind in every age
The authors present two hypotheses for a mechanism that allows an improvement in emotional states after cognitive training. First, it is possible that cognitive training simply diverts attention away from negative experiences that induce depressive symptoms. Another hypothesis says that cognitive training produced changes in functions and structures of the brain that are responsible for the mood.
The exact mechanism still remains to be studied in future experiments; however, these results show that not only physical exercise but also cognitive training can contribute to better well-being and mood.
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 Lin, Y. et al. Deconstructing the emotion regulatory properties of mindfulness: an electrophysiological investigation. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 10 (2016).