Art therapy in the Connections Class

 Welcome to the Volunteer Mike blog site! I am delighted to introduce a guest writer and good friend who is volunteering with us three days a week and making heartfelt and insightful contributions to Memory Matters Compass program and Connections Class. Added to which he is a terrific, gifted musician!


Hi, my name is Bob and I am proud to be a volunteer at Memory Matters here on Hilton Head Island. I recently read an article in the one and only magazine that I subscribe to which is Scientific American. I suppose that is predictable since I am an engineer and as such I have a natural insatiable curiosity for things scientific.  I suppose that is why I chose to study engineering in the first place. I especially look forward to reading the articles pertaining to the latest discoveries that have been made about distant galaxies, black holes, earth like planets orbiting alien suns outside of our own Milky Way Galaxy etc. However, in a recent issue there was an article entitled “A Rare Success Against Alzheimer’s” which immediately aroused my curiosity so I read this article first instead of the other worldly articles I usually read first.

The article of course started with a cautionary note about the long history of failures despite the best efforts of the worldwide pharmaceutical industry to come up with a medicine to reverse or even just stem the ravages on the human brain that Alzheimer’s and other traumatic brain injuries and diseases cause. That said the article quickly turned to an encouraging result that has come out of a clinical trial that took place in Finland during the period 2009 to 2011. The study is called FINGER which stands for “Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability”

As I continued to read this article what really struck home was that the things that the Finnish trials pointed towards doing in our everyday lives to either stem the advancing tide of Cognitive decline or delay its onset were the things that we talk about and actually do at Memory Matters all the time. The inescapable conclusion that I reached is that Memory Matters really has got it right and is providing a relevant, much needed and cutting-edge service to our community.

The FINGER study took place over a two-year period and there were no experimental medicines of any kind involved. The study sought to measure the effects on cognitive decline on a group of people between the ages of 60-77 years by enabling them to make changes in their day to day living. The areas of change included dietary guidance, metabolic and heart health, physical activity and cognitive training and lastly social interaction. The 631 members of the treatment group were selected based on test scores that indicated that they were thought to be at high risk of cognitive decline. During the course of the two-year study the group members received nutritional guidance, cognitive training, physical exercise and their cardiovascular health was closely monitored. The nutritional aspect of the study aimed at a healthy balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, dietary fibers. The study compared the results of the treatment group vs. a control group of similar people who were given much less intensive guidance by the study team. The two groups were then compared in terms of cognitive decline after the two-year study. The results were nothing less than astonishing.

The study participants took a comprehensive battery of neuropsychological tests in order to measure the effects on cognitive decline on the two groups. The benefits were seen in all cognitive areas: Memory, executive function and psychomotor speed. Benefits were seen not only in the area of slowing the rate of decline which is in and of itself is cause for hope but the results also showed a significant improvement in cognitive function 25-35%.

The study results were so encouraging that a follow-on extension of the FINGER study is planned and the extension trial will be over the course of 7 years which will allow the longer-term view of the impact of the day to day living changes made by the study participants.

The FINGER study is the first carefully designed and monitored RCT (randomized control trial) to clarify to what extent a multi domain intervention will delay cognitive impairment and disability among people with an increased dementia risk. It will also provide information about mediating pathways. This data will have great scientific value and is urgently needed for health education and community planning and implementation of preventive measures for the whole population at risk in the future.

The Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation which has helped to fund the FINGER trial has noted that the follow-on study should include stress as a risk factor as well as yoga and meditation as brain improvement activities and that spiritual fitness be included as well.

I really felt compelled to share the essence of this article with you all as it is a clear indicator that the work that is being done at Memory Matters is remarkably beneficial to our community and as I kept reading I just couldn’t stop smiling knowing that the path that Memory Matters has taken is one that is in the forefront of things we can do to help ourselves stem the tide of what Alzheimer’s and other trauma and disease tries to steal from us.

Footnote:   There is an article about the FINGER trials at the Alzheimer’s Research and Prevention Foundation website

Should you believe Memory Matters could help you, a family member or friend do not hestitate to call. All calls are confidential. We offer free of charge baseline memory screening and have programs and classes for everyone. Call 1 843 842 6688


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