Managing people at work triggers structural changes in the brain, which protects its memory and learning centre well into old age, says a new study.
The research from the UNSW has identified a link between managerial experience in a person's working life and the integrity and larger size of an individual's hippocampus - the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory - at the age of 80.
Dr Michael Valenzuela, leader of Regenerative Neuroscience in UNSW's School of Psychiatry, said the findings refine our understanding of how staying mentally active promotes brain health, potentially warding off diseases such as Alzheimer's.
The study will be presented at the Brain Sciences UNSW symposium, which is focussing on research into "brain plasticity", or the brain's ability to repair, rewire and regenerate itself.
The findings overturn scientific dogma that the brain is "hard-wired".
"We found a clear relationship between the number of employees a person may have supervised or been responsible for and the size of the hippocampus," News.com.au quoted Dr Valenzuela as saying.
"This could be linked to the unique mental demands of managing people, which requires continuous problem solving, short term memory and a lot of emotional intelligence, such as the ability to put yourself in another person's shoes.
"Over time this could translate into the structural brain changes we observed," he added.