April 2016 English Bridge
THERE is a commonly held view that those playing
bridge beyond the age of 60 tend to remain alert
into their 80s and 90s. There is no doubt that bridge
playing requires higher cognitive processes
associated with the frontal areas of the cerebral
cortex. But is it true that the game can help
maintain brain fitness?
There are 850,000 people with dementia in the
UK, with numbers set to rise to over one million by
2025. EBED, the English charity for Bridge
Education and Development, is now taking a
scientific approach to establish whether playing
bridge offers benefits in later life, including delaying
the onset and severity of dementia. With little
scientific investigation so far, EBED is fundraising
to enable a formal scientific evaluation of the topic.
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
All proceeds from the EBED Simultaneous Pairs
events in May and September will go towards
funding EBED's work. Simply by playing in one of
the Sim Pairs - or by helping your club to organise
a heat - you will be assisting a project which will
make a difference not only to bridge players, but to
the health and wellbeing of the general public.
WHAT DOES THE RESEARCH ENTAIL?
EBED has begun a collaboration with Professor
Samantha Punch (a Scottish international bridge
player) at the University of Stirling to try to
establish how much of the health benefits
recognised from playing bridge are due to the social
interactions provided, and how much is due to the
cognitive activity of playing cards.
There is a sense of purpose and community in a
bridge club and this probably enhances the
wellbeing of those regularly attending. EBED will
undertake an investigation about the social
networks and interactions, to examine measures of
social isolation, sense of community and wider
implications of what bridge adds to the health and
wellbeing of players. Will there be an amplified
effect on the wellbeing of bridge players attending a
club compared to those who play bridge online in
EBED is also hoping to undertake a research
project at Imperial College, London that will scan
the brains of bridge players and compare them to
appropriate controls. There has been a revolution in
technology used to image the brain over the last
decade. Functional magnetic resonance imaging
(fMRI) is a relatively new procedure that uses MR
imaging to measure tiny metabolic changes that
take place in an active part of the brain. The fMRI
technology allows scientists to examine the brain in
states of rest and then examine the networks and
connections utilised while undertaking a cogitative
task such as playing cards. It would allow them to
examine the differences in the anatomical structure
and function of the brain in bridge players and nonbridge
If the scanning takes place it will be possible to
see, for the first time, which areas of the brain are
activated during a game of bridge. At the end of the
project there would be a quantitative measure of the
possible neurological benefits of bridge.
The different elements of the project would have
benefits to the wider society. We hope it will
demonstrate health care benefits to the general 'non
playing' ageing population and encourage new
players into the game. A delay in the onset of the
ageing process by an average of just one year, or a
modest 10-15 per cent improvement in mental
awareness, could generate considerable cost savings.
It would relieve some of the economic burden on
formal services, and reduce the strain on those who
give informal care support.
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Please encourage your club to take part in one of
EBED's Sim Pairs events. And then take part in a
heat yourself. Information for clubs on how to
register, and a list of clubs which are taking part, are
available at email@example.com/sim-pairs" target="_blank" title="Visit www.ebu.co.uk/sim-pairs">www.ebu.co.uk/sim-pairs.
For more information on the project please contact
Bridge for Brains
EBED's scientiic project to assess bridge beneits