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Mental Stimulation, Neural Plasticity, and Aging: Directions for Nursing Research and Practice

Vance, David E.; Webb, Nicole M.; Marceaux, Janice C.; Viamonte, Sarah M.; Foote, Anne W.; Ball, Karlene K.

Journal of Neuroscience Nursing: August 2008 - Volume 40 - Issue 4 - p 241–249
Then & Now

An unprecedented increase in the number of older adults and consequent age‐related cognitive declines may negatively contribute to an already overwhelmed healthcare system. Many older adults report cognitive changes and express interest in methods to maintain cognitive functioning. Mental stimulation that consists of cognitively challenging activities is a means to facilitate neural plasticity, which can increase cognitive reserve and result in maintained or improved cognitive functioning. In addition, compensatory activities may provide mental stimulation that can improve cognitive functioning and increase cognitive reserve. Several mental stimulation (e.g., education, cognitive remediation therapy) and mental compensation (e.g., spaced retrieval method, method of loci) strategies are described in this article. Because nurses have a significant amount of direct contact with older adults, these strategies have important implications for nursing practice and research.

Questions or comments about this article may be directed to David E. Vance, PhD MGS, at devance@uab.edu. He is an assistant professor at the School of Nursing at the University of Alabama‐Birmingham.

Nicole M. Webb, MA, is a doctoral candidate in the department of psychology at the University of Alabama‐Birmingham.

Janice C. Marceaux, MA, is a doctoral candidate in the department of psychology at the University of Alabama‐Birmingham.

Sarah M. Viamonte, MA, is a doctoral candidate at the Edward R. Roybal Center for Translational Research in Aging and Mobility at the University of Alabama‐Birmingham.

Anne W. Foote, DSN CRNP, is an associate professor at the School of Nursing at the University of Alabama‐Birmingham.

Karlene K. Ball, PhD, is a professor and director at the Edward R. Roybal Center for Translational Research in Aging and Mobility at the University of Alabama‐Birmingham.

© 2008 American Association of Neuroscience Nurses