Reading can prevent dementia 〜認知症の予防!?―さまざまな読書の効果〜


  A Japanese saying has it that autumn is the best season for reading. And reading has numerous good effects. Enhancement of vocabulary is well-known among them. An expanded vocabulary adds to one’s ability to write and speak. But besides such direct effects, reading is known to have some collateral effects as well.





  One of them is prevention of dementia. It is thought that dementia is primarily caused by a substance called beta-amyloid that exists in the brain. Let’s listen to what Suzan M. Landau, a doctor of philosophy at the University of California, Berkeley, has to say. After investigating the brain of people aged 60 or older who haven’t developed dementia, she made clear that the brain of those who have played chess and read books since childhood contained far less beta-amyloid than the brain of people who haven’t. In other words, you can inhibit the formation of the causative agent by keeping the brain continuously stimulated since your childhood.


 そのうちの1つが認知症の予防である。認知症の主な原因は脳内に存在する「ベータアミロイド」という物質と考えられている。カリフォルニア大学のバークレイ校のスーザン・ランダウ氏(Suzan M Landau PhD)は認知症が発症していない60歳以上の脳を調べ、子供のころから将棋や読書などをしていた人は、それらをやっていない人に比べて脳内のベータアミロイドの量が非常に少ないということを明らかにしている。つまり、読書や将棋などで子供の頃から継続的に脳を刺激し続けていると、原因物質の形成を抑制することができるというのだ。



Another effect of reading is reduction of stress. This was proved in 2009 by David Lewis, a neuropsychologist at Sussex University in England. He tried to verify stress-relieving effects by monitoring people’s heart rate while they were reading books, listening to music, having a coffee time, taking a walk and playing video games. The results were that reading was most effective. It reduced stress by 68%, followed by music with 61%, coffee time with 54%, walking with 42% and video games with 21%. Lewis concluded that a moderate concentration by reading helps relax the brain and ease tension.




According to John Stein, emeritus professor of physiology at Magdalen College, University of Oxford, reading has an effect of activating the brain. When people read a book, they imagine what is written in the book and their cerebrum gets activated as if they actually experienced that.


  Stein said an MRI check of an examinee’s brain during reading proved that as he imagined the scenery, sound, smell and taste depicted in the book, his cerebral domains that control each of them were activated and new neural circuits were created. The same process helps develop a child’s ability to think. Incidentally, that phenomenon is not brought by playing video games.


 またオックスフォード大学のジョン・ステイン氏(John Stein)によると、本を読みその中の世界を想像することで大脳は実際に経験したときのように活性化するため読書は大脳の活性化という効果をももたらすそうである。MRIで読書中の脳を調べてみると、本の中の景色、音・臭い、味を想像しただけで大脳のそれぞれをつかさどる領域が活性化し、新しい神経回路が生まれている。これにより、子供たちの思考力も育つのである。ちなみにテレビゲームではこのような現象は起こらない。



  Reading is known to have many other effects. Those include: (1) enhancement of concentration, (2) a better ability to sort out information and (3) less possibility of being influenced by the opinion of others. All these prove how important reading is. But there are effects that can be relevant only in childhood and those that can hardly be provided in adulthood. Therefore, getting accustomed to reading in childhood is all-important.





Written By : Teruya Hirabayashi