Nuns of Mankato, Minnesota

Nuns in water

Why do nuns tend to live so long and seemingly remember EVERYTHING?

An ongoing study of nuns in Mankato, Minnesota, started in 1986, indicates that living with an optimistic attitude is part of the foundation of not just living longer, but avoiding dementia.

Dr. David Snowden, an epidemiologist and professor of neurology, studied nuns in this order all over the country. He found so many of them living well into their 90s. When Snowden retired, others continued the aptly nicknamed "Nun Study," and approximately 50 nuns are still involved.

The study of 670 brains found the complexity of the nuns’ writings and detailed journals about their daily lives provided a solid basis for the idea that mental stimulation is linked with longevity and sharpness of the mind.

Even though some of the brains showed evidence of disease while alive, none of the nuns displayed symptoms throughout their lives. The continued study of these nuns’ brains (kept as tissue samples) may lead to improved methods in avoiding dementia.

So that’s why the nuns never forgot anything I did in class.

During Brain Awareness Week, we're sharing fun ad brainy facts. Click here for more information about Brain Awareness Week and supporting a healthy brain. - Mary

The Brain Coach Blog is written by executive function coach Mary Turos. Based in Belair, MD, Mary is affectionately known as 'The Brain Coach" for her work helping people achieve harmony using strategies based in neuroscience.