A new study published in the journal Brain Sciences points to three factors that might protect against cognitive decline. The first – regular exercise – is not surprising. But the other two – meaningful relationships and passion – might be. Norwegian researchers compiled studies on cognitive decline. They observed that maintaining social relationships improves cognitive reserve of the brain through greater neural growth and density of neural synapses. They defined passion as a strong feeling toward an important value or preference that motivates intentions and behaviors. The researchers found that having passion for something maintains neural plasticity. Plus, traits like grit and having a growth mindset might support and enhance the brain’s gray matter.