By Heather Callaghan, Editor
Crystallized intelligence is the ability to use a lifetime’s accumulation of skills and knowledge you have learned and earned. (Fluid intelligence, on the other hand, is the ability to solve new problems, use logic in new situations, and identify patterns.)
A recent study of older adults has discovered a link between consumption of a pigments found in leafy greens to the preservation of crystallized intelligence.
What is this powerful pigment that accumulates in the brain providing a “neuroprotective role?”
Lovely lutein. Lutein is found in leafy greens like kale and spinach, cruciferous vegetables like cabbage and broccoli, eggs and other foods, too. It’s also found in high concentrations in the macula of the human eye.
The study reported in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience enrolled 122 healthy participants aged 65 to 75 who solved problems and answered questions on a standard test of crystallized intelligence. They collected blood samples to determine blood serum levels of lutein and imaged participants’ brains using MRI to measure the volume of different brain structures. Serum levels reflect recent consumption but are associated with brain concentrations of lutein in older adults, which reflect “long-term dietary intake.”
University of Illinois graduate student, Marta Zamroziewicz, who led the study with Illinois psychology professor Aron Barbey recalls that “previous studies have found that a person’s lutein status is linked to cognitive performance across the lifespan,” and that, “lutein accumulates in the gray matter of brain regions known to underlie the preservation of cognitive function in healthy brain aging.”
University Of Illinois At Urbana-Champaign reports:
The team focused on parts of the temporal cortex, a brain region that other studies suggest plays a role in the preservation of crystallized intelligence.
The researchers found that participants with higher blood serum levels of lutein tended to do better on tests of crystallized intelligence.
Those with higher serum lutein levels also tended to have thicker gray matter in the parahippocampal cortex, a brain region that, like crystallized intelligence, is preserved in healthy aging, the researchers report.
“Our analyses revealed that gray-matter volume of the parahippocampal cortex on the right side of the brain accounts for the relationship between lutein and crystallized intelligence,” Barbey said.
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