Scientists have known for a while that the best way to stave off the mental deterioration of old age is to keep using your brain, and try to avoid careers that involve repeatedly smashing your head into things. The question is, which mental exercises work best? The answer, surprisingly, appears to be dancing -- regardless of your age.
But wait, you're thinking, dancing isn't a mental activity! Well, maybe not the kind of dancing you do. But researchers tested a number of mental and physical activities like biking, reading, solving crosswords, swimming, golf and dancing. They found that while most physical activities offered no protection against dementia, reading and crossword solving unsurprisingly reduced the risk by up to 50 percent. But put down your crosswords -- dancing offered an incredible 76 percent reduced chance of dementia.
"It's so nice to see you finally not spending your nights shouting insults at corn."
Apparently, since dancing is so open and free to interpretation, it demands the most instant thinking. Your brain has to fire off signals to move every part of your body in crazy ways that you just don't have to ordinarily manage. Unlike bicycling or swimming, where you eventually just fall into a routine and stop thinking about it, dancing is more dynamic. And with all this rapid thinking, your brain can't help but grow extra neural pathways to keep up with you.
Researchers weren't very sure which dance in particular was the best, but they suggest that any activity that promotes rapid decision making without falling into a routine would show the same benefits. And you shouldn't wait to be a senior citizen before you consider dancing -- they found that it improves mental acuity for all ages.
Ravers are our future. And, astoundingly, that isn't a bad thing.
Also, it turns out that women benefit more than men, because women usually act as the follower in the dance routine, while men lead -- bluntly, the woman has to react to the man and fix all his fuck-ups.
Apparently some "scientists" have decided that smoking doesn't have lots of benefits, at least if you're one of those folks opposed to cancer and offending people. But it seems that, in the process of destroying everything else, nicotine has some beneficial effect on the brain.
"Don't you be getting intelligent in this house, young lady!"
Researchers at the University of Amsterdam have actually discovered that the nicotine found in cigarettes enhances both learning and memory. Since learning and memory are key areas of loss in Alzheimer's patients, researchers tested nicotine patches on elderly people with Alzheimer's, and found that after regular doses, they were two times faster and significantly more consistent at answering memory-based questions than the control group.
The researchers found that the nicotine was able to do this by improving communication among the learning centers in the brain. But, chances are that, if you still remember the beginning of this sentence, you probably don't have Alzheimer's. So this doesn't apply to regular people, right?
Oh, wait, you forgot about stupid, stupid children!
Well, good news! Researchers pumped nicotine into adolescent mice, then tested them on spatial learning and memory later in their adult life and found that those who had received small, steady levels of nicotine learned faster and performed significantly better -- months later. Not only that, but they discovered that mice are adorable with a hacking cough.
"Hey, I think instead of finishing this, I'm just gonna grab a smoke and maybe take a short nap."
All of this is starting to make sense. Think about the smartest people you know: Weren't they always smoking, while dancing, while wearing a scowl on their face? While using electrodes and a car battery to shock the shit out of their heads? Oh, we guess we haven't gotten to that one yet ...