MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Professor Keith A. Wesnes
BSc PhD FSS CPsychol FBPsS
Head Honcho, Wesnes Cognition Ltd
Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Medical School, University of Exeter, UK
Visiting Professor, Department of Psychology
Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK
Adjunct Professor, Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia
Visiting Professor, Medicinal Plant Research Group
Newcastle University, UK
Wesnes Cognition Ltd, Little Paddock, Streatley Hill, Streatley on Thames UK
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: This data we reported were taken from the PROTECT study, a 10-year research programme being conducted jointly by Kings College London and the University of Exeter Medical School. It started in November 2015 and over 20,000 individuals aged 50 to 96 years have enrolled.
A highly novel feature of the study is that it is run entirely remotely, the participants logging on via the internet at home and providing demographic and life style information, and also performing online cognitive tasks of key aspects of cognitive function. The tasks are from two well-validated systems, CogTrack and the PROTECT test system, and assess major aspects of cognitive function including focused and sustained attention, information processing, reasoning and a range of aspects of memory.
One of the lifestyle questions was ‘How frequently do you engage in word puzzles, e.g. crosswords?’ and the 6 possible answers were: never; occasionally; monthly; weekly; daily; more than once per day. We analysed the cognitive data from 17,677 individuals who had answered the question, and found that the more often the participants reported engaging in such puzzles, the better their cognitive function on each of the 9 cognitive tasks they performed. The group who never performed such puzzles were poorest on all measures, and the improvements were mostly incremental as the frequency of use increased. The findings were highly statistically reliable, and we controlled for factors including age, gender and education. To evaluate the magnitudes of these benefits, we calculated the average decline over the age-range on the various tasks in the study population. The average difference between those who ‘never’ did puzzles to those who did so ‘more than once a day’ was equivalent to 11 years of ageing; and between those who never did puzzles and all those who did was 8 years.