November 17, 2006
ABC 7 (KGO) News
Dr. Dean Edell

To stay younger longer, keeping your mind active may not be enough. Your brain may actually need a work out. Bay Area scientists have developed a brain fitness program.

Paul Edstrom’s memory isn’t what it used to be. After all, he’s 90 years old.

Paul Edstrom, memory loss patient: “You go to do something, and in the meantime, you think of something else and then you forget what you were in for.”

Like many his age, Paul’s cognitive ability faded. Doctor Michael Merzenich is all too familiar with the problem.

Michael Merzenich, Ph.D., Neuroscientist, Posit Science Corporation: “I witnessed my own mother progress into Alzheimer’s disease and watched her disappear before my eyes.”

Now Doctor Merzenich is part of a Bay Area company taking a pro-active approach to memory loss. We know weight-lifting can tone and strengthen your body’s muscles, so researchers believe intense mental exercises can do the same for the aging brain.

Scientists at Posit Science Corporation have created a series of mental workouts designed to stop and even reverse memory loss.

Michael Merzenich, “The brain is a learning machine, and it’s really demanding that it be engaged in new learning.”

Memory games and quizzes require participants to match sounds. The exercises get faster – forcing the brain to process quicker, sometimes as fast as a 30 year old!

Paul Edstrom: “Every week, they step it up a little, so that what you were doing that was fairly easy in the beginning now are very difficult.”

In a recent study, participants, ages 61 to 94, improved memory by an average of 10 years – that’s impressive.

Michael Merzenich: “So that the brain really can outlive the body.”

Paul Edstrom: “When I listen to someone speaking, you pay a little more attention to details.”

Mental alertness that may mean staying younger, longer.

The company’s mental workout programs range from $150 to $1,000 dollars. And they add, learning a new language or a musical instrument are other ways to keep the brain young.