Tuesday, May 19, 2015

DG XX: Homework

With apologies to theblueweasel [see comments to DG XIX from last Thursday], here we go again.

Is the claim that there is "strong evidence cognitively stimulating leisure activities" helps with dementia justified? We’d have to know which particular studies Mig had in mind to come to a conclusion as to whether they supported what he was saying. We could tweet him to inquire, I suppose, but we know that he doesn’t much care for the #askforevidence game so I’m not convinced there’s much to be gained by travelling any further down that road.

Chalk up one more empty assertion from the Kasparov camp and move on, then? No, not this time.

Clearly, one solitary study is never going to be "strong" evidence of anything.  Equally, 'one' is by no means the "many" that Kasparov originally claimed for chess and dementia*. Still, credit to Mig for putting it out there. One article is infinitely better than the zero we’ve had to date so let’s go with it.

Here’s the full reference to the study that you get to if you click on the link in that tweet:-

Akbaraly et al (2009), Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly: Results from the Three-City Study,  Neurology vol 73 no 11, 854-861

Unfortunately you’ll only have access to the Abstract. The article itself doesn’t appear to be available online**, which means that you lot have got some homework to do before we can go any further.

If you take yourself off to the British Library you’ll find a copy of the relevant journal in the Medicine and Life Sciences reading room (right-hand side of the building on the second floor). Should getting to St Pancras not be hugely practical, the next best thing is to familiarise yourself with some material which covers similar ground to that explored by Akbaraly and his friends, but which has the added advantage of being accessible at the click of a mouse***.

Verghese et al (2003)****, Leisure Activities and the Risk of Dementia in the Elderly, New England Journal of Medicine, New England Journal of Medicine, volume 348, 2508 - 2516
Hall et al (2009), Cognitive Activities Delay Onset of memory Decline in Persons Who Develop Dementia, Neurology, vol 73 no 5, 356-361 
Hughes et al (2010), Engagement in Reading and Hobbies and Risk of Incident Dementia: The MoVIES Project, American Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease and Other Dementias, vol 25 no 5, 432-438 
Wang et al (2012), Leisure Activities Cognition and Dementia, Biochimica et Biophysica Acta, vol 1822 no 3, 482-491 
Dartigues et al (2013), Playing Board Games, Cognitive Decline and Dementia: a French Population-Based Cohort Study, British Medical Journal Open, vol 3 no 8
Sorman et al (2013), Leisure Activity in Old Age and Risk of Dementia: A 15-Year Prospective Study, Journals of Gerontology, Series B, Psychological Sciences and Social Sciences, vol 69 no 4, 493-501

You may or may not remember the Verghese (DG III: Dogs That Don’t Bark; DG VI: Doctor Susan) and Hall studies (DG IV: After Six Years’ Thought) from last year.  Either way, get reading and we’ll be back tomorrow.

Chess and Dementia Index

Thanks to Matt F and Pablo.

* "cognitively-stimulating leisure activities" and "chess" are obviously not interchangeable terms, but we’ll fight that battle another day.

** which is a drag but hardly Mig’s fault. A lot of academic research is not immediately available to the public, more’s the pity.

*** this is not intended to be an exhaustive list of the available research, but it’s more than enough to get us going.

**** "et al" for those who are not used to looking at academic references, simply means "and other writers". See DG X: Making a Difference for more details about referencing methods.


Anonymous said...

oh please not again! but here are two more links for you - dubious of course

Some other links for this sort of stuff


Anonymous said...

Perhaps not much credence should be given to this, but there's a scare story about popular computer games.


So does the "beneficial" effect of chess depend on whether go play it the traditional way with board and pieces or on a computer screen?


an ordinary chessplayer said...

Playing chess is already a form of dementia.

Jonathan B said...

The Guardian’s version the story RdC links to is here:-


Considerably less emphasis on Alzheimer’s Disease in that one.

Also, viz a viz newspaper referencing as we were discussion previously, The Gurdian provides a link to 4 different articles on PubMed but not for the actual piece of research under discussion. Neither does it actually name the journal in which the research was published. Bizarre.

Anonymous said...

Another Baduk/Go related example:

and really, it is enough now on this topic

Jonathan B said...

Another link on the video game / dementia thing:-


(Via Sense about Science and Matt Fletcher)

Jonathan B said...

Source article properly referenced in that last link. Correlation between that and the less feverish tone, methinks.