Playing Bridge Increases Immunity

   New findings suggest that brainy card games such as contract bridge may at least temporarily raise production of a key blood cell involved in fighting off illness. After 90 minutes of play, bridge players had increased levels of immune cells according to research reported last week.

   Marian Cleeves Diamond, a neuroscientist at the University of California, Berkeley, presented the findings at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans.

   Diamond studied bridge players from an Orinda, CA womens's bridge club. The new findings are based on before and after blood samples drawn from 12 bridge players of women in their 70s and 80s. In between the blood draws, the women played 90 minutes of bridge.

   Afterward, the blood samples showed a rise in levels of white blood cells called T cells, whick are produced by the thymus gland and deployed by the immune system against viruses and other threats. The T cell count jumped significantly in eight of the bridge players, and slightly in the other four.

   What isn't clear is whether the apparent boost to the immune system from an activity like bridge is lasting or transient, and whether the increase in T cells could eventually be targeted against specific illnesses.


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