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Home > Research Articles > Study: human brain benefits from talking

Xinhua News Agency - CEIS

Thursday, October 24, 2002

(Xinhua News Agency - CEIS)

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 22 (Xinhua) -- Talking with friends helps keep the mind sharp, researchers said in a new study on Tuesday.

At present, most advices for preserving and enhancing mental function emphasize intellectual activities such as reading, doing crossword puzzles, and learning how to use a computer.

But the new research, led by Oscar Ybarra, a psychologist from University of Michigan, shows that "just getting together and chatting with friends and family may also be effective," the university said in a press release.

In the study, researchers analyzed data on 3,617 Americans between the ages of 24 and 96, including those showing how often participants talked on the phone with friends, neighbors and relatives, how often they got together with them and how many people they identified with whom they could share their most private feelings and concerns.

The interviewers administered a mental exam and a series of arithmetic tasks to assess the participants' cognition and working memory.

"Across all age groups, the more socially engaged participants were, the lower their level of cognitive impairment and the better their working memory performance," said Ybarra.

The reason may be that people's technical prowess depends on their social intelligence, Ybarra explained. In studies of primates and other mammals, the size of the brain has been correlated with the size of the social group the animals typically form.

By encouraging children to develop their social skills, Ybarra said, parents and teachers could also be helping them to improve their intellectual skills. And in the workplace, instead of encouraging employees to keep their noses to computer monitors and complete their tasks, supervisors might encourage them to take plenty of time out to socialize.