„Don’t Lose Your Brain at Work – The Role of Recurrent Novelty at Work in Cognitive and Brain Aging,” reveals new findings about how work affects brain aging. Ursula Staudinger co-authored the research article published in Frontiers in Psychology earlier this year.
The authors suggest that everyday settings such as work demands strongly influence cognitive and brain aging. Long-term exposure to highly routinized work (low complex jobs), for instance, has detrimental effects on cognitive functioning and regional gray matter (GM) volume.
“We have found that the experience of novelty at work is one important trigger of plasticity,” says Ursula Staudinger. “Over a time window of 17 years, we have investigated the cumulative effect of recurrent exposure to work-task changes at low levels of job complexity on GM volume and cognitive functioning of middle-aged production workers.” The amount of work-task changes was not only associated with better processing speed and working memory, but also with more GM volume in the brain regions associated with attention and learning.
“Our study provides optimistic evidence that recurrent experience of novelty can serve as a powerful ‘in vivo’ cognitive intervention in work settings,” Staudinger emphasizes. “Negative long-term effects of low job complexity can be effectively counteracted. We strongly encourage HR leaders to reconsider work organization such that employees – across all ages, with highly routinized jobs are exposed to regular changes in their work tasks .”