CNE Article 

How Neuroplasticity and Cognitive Reserve Protect Cognitive Functioning

David E. Vance, PhD, MGS; Anthony J. Roberson, PhD, PMHNP-BC; Teena M. McGuinness, PhD, CRNP, FAAN; Pariya L. Fazeli, BA

Abstract

Overall cognitive status can vary across an individual’s life span in response to factors that promote either positive or negative neuroplasticity. Positive neuroplasticity refers to the physiological ability of the brain to form and strengthen dendritic connections, produce beneficial morphological changes, and increase cognitive reserve. Negative neuroplasticity refers to the same physiological ability of the brain to atrophy and weaken dendritic connections, produce detrimental morphological changes, and decrease cognitive reserve. Factors that promote positive neuroplasticity include physical activity, education, social interaction, intellectual pursuits, and cognitive remediation. Factors that promote negative neuroplasticity include poor health, poor sleep hygiene, poor nutrition, substance abuse, and depression and anxiety. Implications for promoting positive neuroplasticity and avoiding negative neuroplasticity across the life span are emphasized to facilitate optimal cognitive health and ensure successful cognitive aging.

Authors

Dr. Vance is Associate Professor, Dr. Roberson is Assistant Professor, Dr. McGuinness is Professor, School of Nursing, and Ms. Fazeli is a graduate student, Department of Psychology and Center for Research in Applied Gerontology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama.

The authors disclose that they have no significant financial interests in any product or class of products discussed directly or indirectly in this activity, including research support.

Address correspondence to David E. Vance, PhD, MGS, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1701 University Boulevard, Room 456, Birmingham, AL 35294-1210; e-mail: .devance@uab.edu

10.3928/02793695-20100302-01

Overall cognitive status can vary across an individual’s life span in response to factors that promote either positive or negative neuroplasticity. Positive neuroplasticity refers to the physiological ability of the brain to form and strengthen dendritic connections, produce beneficial morphological changes, and increase cognitive reserve. Negative neuroplasticity refers to the same physiological ability of the brain to atrophy and weaken dendritic connections, produce detrimental morphological changes, and decrease cognitive reserve. Factors that promote positive neuroplasticity include physical activity, education, social interaction, intellectual pursuits, and cognitive remediation. Factors that promote negative neuroplasticity include poor health, poor sleep hygiene, poor nutrition, substance abuse, and depression and anxiety. Implications for promoting positive neuroplasticity and avoiding negative neuroplasticity across the life span are emphasized to facilitate optimal cognitive health and ensure successful cognitive aging.

Dr. Vance is Associate Professor, Dr. Roberson is Assistant Professor, Dr. McGuinness is Professor, School of Nursing, and Ms. Fazeli is a graduate student, Department of Psychology and Center for Research in Applied Gerontology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, Alabama.

The authors disclose that they have no significant financial interests in any product or class of products discussed directly or indirectly in this activity, including research support.

Address correspondence to David E. Vance, PhD, MGS, Associate Professor, School of Nursing, University of Alabama at Birmingham, 1701 University Boulevard, Room 456, Birmingham, AL 35294-1210; e-mail: .devance@uab.edu

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