Worried about your brain getting old? Get a more complicated job

‘More stimulating environments’ keep brain fit for longer

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The Independent Online

Staying active, living well and keeping social can all help you stay fit as old age approaches. But one of the best ways to keep your brain nimble is to do something complex for a living, according to a new study.

According to the study, reported in the journal Neurology, those people that worked in more complex jobs through their lives are likely to keep their cognitive functions for longer.

The scientists used the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 — a collection of people born in Scotland almost 80 years ago — and matched data on people’s IQ at 11 years old and 70 years old with their jobs.

The jobs were ranked according to their complexity, and scientists examined whether there was any relationship between how complicated their jobs were and the change in their IQs over their lives.

The researchers — Emily Smart, Alan Gow and Ian Deary, from Edinburgh and Herriott-Watt universities — found that those that worked in “more stimulating environments” kept their IQ high more consistently. The researchers hesitated to commit to whether the change would stay into later life.

The reasons for the effect are unknown, though some have speculated that the more stimulating environments encourage the brain to keep a ‘cognitive reserve’, that protects against the effects of aging on the brain. Others have suggested that it is because those with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to choose in more complicated jobs.

The scientists ranked jobs such as lawyers, surgeons and probation officers high in terms of complexity, while placing other jobs such as builders and phone operators lower down.

The test explored how participants fared on tests of memory and the processing speed of their brains.