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J Neurosci Nurs. 2008 Aug;40(4):241-9.

Mental stimulation, neural plasticity, and aging: directions for nursing research and practice.

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School of Nursing, University of Alabama-Birmingham, USA.


An unprecedented increase in the number of older adults and consequent age-related cognitive declines may negatively contribute to an already overwhelmed healthcare system. Many older adults report cognitive changes and express interest in methods to maintain cognitive functioning. Mental stimulation that consists of cognitively challenging activities is a means to facilitate neural plasticity, which can increase cognitive reserve and result in maintained or improved cognitive functioning. In addition, compensatory activities may provide mental stimulation that can improve cognitive functioning and increase cognitive reserve. Several mental stimulation (e.g., education, cognitive remediation therapy) and mental compensation (e.g., spaced retrieval method, method of loci) strategies are described in this article. Because nurses have a significant amount of direct contact with older adults, these strategies have important implications for nursing practice and research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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