Neurobiological Investigation of the Role of Social Interaction in Maintaining Cognitive Function in the Elderly.
Neurobiological investigation of the role of social interaction in maintaining cognitive function in the elderly.
Kaoru Sekiyama, Professor, Graduate School of Advanced Integrated Studies in Human Survivability, Kyoto University
Masatoshi Yamashita, Program-Specific Research Fellow, Graduate School of Advanced Integrated Studies in Human Survivability, Kyoto University
Aya Toyoshima, Research Fellow, Graduate School of Education, Kyoto University
Xueyan Wang, Doctor’s Program, Graduate School of Advanced Integrated Studies in Human Survivability, Kyoto University
Marcelo Kakihara Savassi,Doctor’s Program, Graduate School of Advanced Integrated Studies in Human Survivability, Kyoto University
Hiroyuki Horikawa, Research Fellow, Graduate School of Advanced Integrated Studies in Human Survivability, Kyoto University
Nobuhito Abe, Associate Professor, Kokoro Research Center, Kyoto University
Advances in science and technology, medical care, and industrial society, through increased longevity and rising educational costs, are driving countries around the world toward declining birthrates and aging populations. Especially in Japan, this trend is progressing rapidly, and a response is required. This study aims to clarify the role of social interaction in maintaining cognitive function in the elderly through functional brain imaging and measurement of neuroendocrine substances, as a contribution to the search for a sustainable super-aging society.
Epidemiological studies on the lifestyles of the elderly have shown that those who have frequent social interactions have higher subjective well-being (Okun et al., 1984; Zhang & Zhang, 2015) and lower risk of dementia (James et al., 2011). Conversely, feelings of loneliness in the elderly predict the onset of dementia later in life (Holwerda et al., 2014). These findings suggest that social interaction has a positive effect not only on well-being but also on cognitive function. In fact, dancing and playing musical instruments, which are considered to be the most effective leisure habits for reducing the risk of dementia among the elderly (Verghese et al., 2003), include elements of social interaction. However, since there are two aspects to these activities, training and social interaction, it is not possible to identify which aspect has a positive effect on cognitive function at the epidemiological level.
In this study, we will separate the effects of social interaction and cognitive training through intervention studies, and examine how each affects the maintenance of cognitive function in the elderly. We will measure neuroendocrine and neurotransmitter substances, such as oxytocin, as a biological basis for the positive effects of social interaction. These will then be compared with behavioral performance during a cognitive task and functional brain imaging data for further elaborate investigation.
If this study shows that social interaction improves cognitive brain function, we can propose that social interaction is an innovative and simple way to prevent cognitive decline outside of drug therapy. This would change the mindset of dementia prevention from “brain training” to “connection.”