Posted by: Bert Copple | September 23, 2010

Brain changes can slow reflexes

Breakdowns in brain connections may be the reason a person’s physical response time slows with age, a new study suggests.

This decline is associated with age-related breakdown in the corpus callosum, a part of the brain that helps prevent “cross-talk” between the two sides of the brain during one-sided motor activities. At other times, the corpus callosum acts as a bridge, and cross-talk is helpful, such as in certain cognitive functions or two-sided motor skills.

The University of Michigan study is the first known to show that this cross-talk happens even while older adults are at rest, said Rachael Seidler, lead study author. This resting cross-talk suggests that it is not helpful for the two halves of the brain to communicate during one-sided motor movements, because the opposite side of the brain controls the part of the body that is moving. So, when both sides of the brain talk simultaneously while one side of the body tries to move, confusion and slower responses result, Seidler said.

In this study, researchers gave joysticks to adults between the ages of 65 and 75. Their response times were compared against those of a group of 20- to 25-year-olds. A functional MRI was used to image the blood-oxygen levels in different parts of the brain.

“The more they recruited the other side of the brain, the slower they responded,” Seidler said.

Seidler’s group is working to develop and pilot motor training studies that might rebuild or maintain the corpus callosum to limit overflow between the two sides of the brain. A previous study by another group found that doing aerobic training for three months helped to rebuild the corpus callosum, which suggests that physical activity can help counteract the effects of age-related degeneration.

Aerobic activity can be very beneficial as a person enters old age, not only from a physical fitness standpoint, but as this study shows, it can also keep your brain communicating well. Even just 30 minutes to one hour of aerobic activity a day can bring huge benefits to your body. That is why we suggest seniors do their best to stay active for as long as their bodies allow. And what better way is there to do this than with a companion? Home Instead Senior Care takes pride in the ability of our CAREGivers, and they not only take care of your loved one extremely well, but they also offer someone to talk to and be with. CAREGivers promote physical activity, even if it is limited, because every little bit helps.

Home Instead Senior Care will provide outstanding caregivers to help your loved one with personal care, incidental travel, companionship, medication reminders, light housekeeping, and even meal preparation. To learn more, call 248-203-2273 or visit www.homeinstead.com . Home Instead Senior Care is the world’s trusted source of in-home non-commercial personal care and companionship for seniors. Each franchise is independently owned and operated. And remember, to us, it’s personal.

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