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Alzheimer's Disease and Ties to Tutoring

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Jessie Wells tutors - and exercises her brain - at an elementary school in Baltimore.
Stephanie Kaye
Jessie Wells tutors - and exercises her brain - at an elementary school in Baltimore.

Scientists at Johns Hopkins University are studying the benefits of tutoring on the brain, in a project that combines science and volunteerism.

Jessie Wells is of "retirement age." Yet these days she can be found back in elementary school. She speaks slowly, saying "Which choice...best answers the question...or completes the statement?"

Wells is a volunteer with Experience Corps in Baltimore, part of the Hopkins project studying brain function of older adults. "My friends told me, 'The first year you retire, do absolutely nothing.' Volunteering is new for me."

Wells' volunteerism may help keep her brain active enough to ward off dementia and disease. V.J. Varma is the project's coordinator. "Working in schools and tutoring can be very beneficial for your brain health, and perhaps - perhaps - it can do very beneficial things in terms of reducing risk of Alzheimer's."

The Hopkins study is finding other benefits to tutoring that go beyond doing a solitary activity, like crossword puzzles or word problems. Dr. Michelle Carlson. "You see how the volunteers interact with the children. They're not doing it for their own personal health promotion. They're doing it in the service of others." An activity that Carlson says provides benefits for the tutors, as well as a new generation of developing minds.

Stephanie Kaye reports...

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