TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - The brain is Mission Control for the body.
"It's an organ system that functions somewhat like a computer," Dr. Scott Teeter of Cotton-O'Neil Internal Medicine in Topeka, Kansas described it.
Like any computer, as it ages, it's likely to face glitches.
"There are deteriorations that occur with just normal aging, and then there are disease processes," Dr. Teeter said.
A simple screening can reveal if you're in the early stages of a disease like dementia or Alzheimer's.
"It's a series of tasks and questions designed to test these different areas of brain function, such as short term memory, ability to calculate," Dr. Teeter said.
Cotton-O'Neil Clinical Research is currently involved in four trials looking at medications targeting a protein that's believed to build up in the brain and cause Alzheimer's.
"Then we can prevent the worsening or even reverse some of the damage that occurs," Dr. Teeter said.
While the protein is a physiological change, other research points to benefits of brain training - workouts to head off confusion and memory loss that comes with aging.
Research revealed at the Alzheimer's Association's International Conference in late July shows a specific computerized training designed to increase how quickly the brain picks up and processes visual cues could cut risk of dementia in half. You can find details on the study and the computer program it utilized by clicking here.
Earlier studies also have suggested links between cognitive games and improved function.
Dr. Teeter said the key is going beyond crosswords and challenging yourself with a new language or skill, coupled with healthy living.
"Sleep, nutrition and physical exercise are very important, as well as keeping the brain active with cognitive tasks - and the more vigorous and intensive and difficult it is, the better," he said.