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Defy Dementia Episode 3: Live with Joy, Learn with Purpose

In Episode 3 of Defy Dementia, we dive deep into the role of cognitive engagement in protecting brain health. Join co-hosts Jay Ingram and Dr. Allison Sekuler, as they embark on a captivating conversation with Dr. Rebecca Chopp, former Chancellor of the University of Denver, who continues to thrive after her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease by making the choice to engage her brain daily and live with joy. We also connect with Dr. Nicole Anderson, Senior Scientist at Baycrest's Rotman Research Institute, to uncover the science behind cognitive engagement and how it can reduce dementia risk. Tune in for a wealth of practical tips and expert advice that will empower you to stimulate your brain and defy dementia.


Key takeaways

  1. Cognitive engagement is any activity that’s mentally stimulating and engages your brain, like music lessons, learning languages, or joining a book club. The result is a healthier brain and a decreased risk of dementia. 
  2. Cognitive engagement is a workout for your brain. It boosts blood flow, creates new brain cells, and builds better connections.
  3. Choose activities that challenge your brain and bring you joy. Different activities exercise different parts of your brain, so aim for a whole-brain workout.

Key highlights

Jay: “More research still needs to be done, but scientific studies are saying cognitive engagement is a very promising way to lower your odds of developing dementia. And for people who've been diagnosed, there's evidence it can delay the disease.”

Allison: “Don’t just do one thing, but lots of different things. Variety is the spice of life, as they say. And make sure that you're doing things that really float your boat, if you will, things that you're really going to be engaged in, things that you'll follow up on.”

Rebecca: “You've got to research and you've got to choose to live with joy. You've got to refuse to surrender to the despair because it is a tragic disease. But by choosing to live, you can prolong your wellbeing, your years of wellbeing, you can enjoy your family and you can remain productive.”
Nicole: “Thinking is literally a workout for the brain. So whatever area that you're currently using, you're increasing blood flow to that area of the brain. And there is evidence that it also creates new neurons - the act of thinking contributes to the growth of new neurons and better connections between different brain areas.”



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Learn more about our guests

Dr. Rebecca Chopp is an Alzheimer’s activist and educator. Chopp co-founded the Voices of Alzheimer’s advocacy group. In addition, she is a member of the Early Stage Advisory Board of the US Alzheimer’s Organization and a member of the Board of the Colorado chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. Her book, tentatively titled Not Your Grandmother’s Alzheimer’s: How to Live Well After your Diagnosis, will be published in 2024. Before Chopp’s diagnosis with Mild Cognitive Impairment and early Alzheimer’s Disease in 2019, she was Chancellor of the University of Denver. She was additionally President of Swarthmore College and Colgate University, and she served as Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Emory University, and as a Dean of Divinity at Yale University. Chopp, also an ordained minister, is now retired. 

Dr. Nicole Anderson is the Interim Executive Director of Scientific and Academic Affairs, Director of the Katz Interprofessional Research Program in Geriatric and Dementia Care, Associate Scientific Director of the Kimel Family Centre for Brain Health and Wellness, and a Senior Scientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest. She is also a professor of psychology and psychiatry at the University of Toronto and a registered clinical neuropsychologist. Dr. Anderson researches memory and attention in healthy and pathological aging, and dementia risk reduction through lifestyle changes. She is a team lead of the Canadian Consortium on Neurodegeneration in Aging, including the CAN-THUMBS UP multidomain intervention trials.