Current Studies

Cafe Scientifique: Use it or Lost it: Mental Activity in Older Adults

Dr Yaakov Stern, Dr. Gabriela Ilie, Dr. Michael Cusimano
Dr Yaakov Stern, Dr. Gabriela Ilie, Dr. Michael Cusimano

On Nov. 1, 2012, Dr. Gabriela Ilie, from the Injury Prevention Office at St. Michael Hospital organized and delivered a funded CIHR public event entitled: Café Scientifique: Use it or Lose it: Mental Activity in Older Adults.

The objective of this integrative event was to communicate, using language free of academic jargon, research findings that have the potential to improve personal health and the health of the aging population.

The subject of this event was the “Use it or lose it!” principle of neurodegenerative diseases, acute brain injury and neuropsychiatric disorders and how it relates directly to the quality of life and health of older Canadians. A panel of experts identified preventive factors have been found by research to potentially reduce the expression of neuropathology in the older population.

Cognitive reserve (level of education, occupational achievement throughout one’s life time) and cognitive engagement in leisure activities have been identified as independent and important factors in lessening the clinical manifestation associated with neurodegenerative diseases, such as dementia (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis), in older adults. Other factors, such as physical activity, were also discussed. These factors have also been identified, though to a lesser extent, as preventive of the cognitive consequences associated with acute brain injury (concussion and traumatic brain injury) and psychiatric disorders.

The attendees engaged in an in-depth discussion with the panelists
The attendees engaged in an in-depth discussion with the panelists

The event brought together experts and non-researchers in a relaxed atmosphere to talk about mind-engagement and its potential preventive role in brain injury as we age. The panel of experts was composed of: Dr. Michael Cusimano, Neurosurgeon and Head of Injury Prevention Research Office at St. Michael Hospital, Dr. Mark Rapoport, Psychiatrist at Sunnybrook Hospital, Dr. Yaakov Stern, Division Leader of the Cognitive Neuroscience Division, Department of Neurology, TAUB Institute for Research on Alzheimer’s Disease and the Aging Brain, from Columbia University School of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, and Dr. Gabriela Ilie, Cognition and Emotion Experimental Psychologist from Injury Prevention Office at St. Michael Hospital, who mediated the discussion.

Attendees had an opportunity to get answers to questions they have about the subject matter and bring up important considerations to future research from their point of view. This perspective is useful in the direction of future health research funding, research initiatives and the improvement of the health delivery.