Study links busy schedules to better cognitive function

In the Journals

Staying busy may improve your memory, suggests a study published May 17, 2016, in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

Researchers examined 330 adults ages 50 to 89 from the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study. Participants rated their daily busyness with a questionnaire. Sample questions included, "How often do you have too many things to do each day to actually get them all done?" and "How often do you have so many things to do that you go to bed later than your regular bedtime?"

Each question was answered on a 5-point scale, with higher scores indicating greater busyness. The participants also underwent tests to gauge memory, information processing speed, reasoning, and vocabulary. Those with average busyness scores of 4 to 5 had better cognitive function scores than those with busyness numbers closer to 1 or 2. The greatest effect from busyness was with episodic memory, which is the memory of past events like times and places.

While the study did not explore the underlying mechanisms at play between busyness and cognitive function, and the results were limited by self-reporting, the researchers noted the two appear to be linked. "It is possible that people with higher mental function lead busier lives, but staying busy and active may be a proxy for mental stimulation, which leads to intellectual growth," says lead researcher Dr. Sara Festini of the University of Texas, Dallas.