Can New Activities Help an Ageing Brain?

Heriot-Watt University front entrance

Can taking up a new activity help our thinking skills as we age?

That’s a key question for researchers interested in cognitive ageing, the field that explores how thinking skills change over the life course, and what factors might be associated with those changes.

The Ageing Lab at Heriot-Watt University’s Department of Psychology have made it their mission to find out how new activities could affect our thinking skills as we age.

As we age, we are more likely to experience changes in our thinking and memory skills (these are referred to as our mental or cognitive abilities). Some people experience declines in their thinking and memory skills across their 60s and beyond, while others maintain their abilities into old age. This variation suggests that a number of factors influence the likelihood of mental decline. Keeping engaged in intellectual, social or physical activities have all been proposed as potentially beneficial.

In our major study in The Ageing Lab, we are asking people take up new and challenging activities to see how those might have benefits for their thinking skills, as well as their health and wellbeing more broadly. We’re on target to have over 300 people in that study, and the results will be reported later this year. But there’s still time for people to take part. To find out what that might involve, here are what some of our current participants think about their experiences.

Picture by Lesley Martin
7 June 2018
© Lesley Martin 2018

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SoSS Psychology students “Research the Headlines”

Alan Gow from our Psychology department, has written for us on “Research the Headlines”, a fascinating blog project enabling students to develop their critical thinking skills and ability to disseminate their growing knowledge. Well done to the students involved in showcasing their work!

In our teaching, we want to ensure that our students not only get a firm grasp of their topic, but that they develop a range of skills that might be relevant after they graduate. For students in the 4th Year course Psychology of Ageing, one of the pieces of coursework helped them to develop their abilities in communicating their specialised knowledge. Their task was to describe an original research report exploring how lifestyle affects brain health in a manner accessible to non-experts, as well as evaluating the media coverage of the research. At the end of June, Research the Headlines showcased some of that work.

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