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‘Brain training’ found to reduce risk of dementia by 29%

Published on 22/11/17 at 10:12am

In a 10-year study conducted at the Indiana University School of Medicine, researchers were able to observe a 29% reduced risk of developing dementia in patients who participated in a certain kind of computer-based training.

The study began with 2,802 older adults who were assigned into four groups to determine whether certain types of exercises had potential to prevent the onset of dementia. The four groups were as follows:

  • Participants who received computer-based speed of processing exercises – exercises designed to increase the amount and complexity of information they could process quickly
  • Participants who received instructions and practice in strategies to improve memory of life events and activities
  • Participants who received instruction and practice in strategies to help with problem solving and related issues
  • A control group whose members did not participate in any cognitive training program

The first group was found to hold the most potential for postponing any developments of dementia, with risk of developing down by 29% compared to those in the control group. The memory and reasoning training groups also showed a moderate benefit but were not enough to be deemed statistically significant.

The groups were given six-weeks of training, with 10 one-hour training sessions, and a further eight booster sessions if participants chose to. The study participants were then periodically checked up on at the one, two, three, five and 10 years after the initial training.

Psychiatry professor Frederick W. Unverzagt led the study and commented on the findings, in a Q&A blog post: “It’s completely consistent with a large literature that talks about the beneficial effects of engagement, broadly considered, from an occupational standpoint, interpersonal engagement, leisure activity engagement. All of that epidemiological research has found support for the idea that those things are helpful to brain health, and in terms of risk for later development of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, engagement with those things is associated with a lower risk. It’s quite consistent with that literature.”

The results are a promising development but questions have been raised as to whether a period of six-weeks of training, alongside additional booster sessions, would be enough to create such an impact 10 years after the study. However, it opens the area for further studies looking into the potential of computer-based to offset the danger of dementia.

Ben Hargreaves

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