Does computer brain training really protect against dementia?

There are many different kinds of computer brain training games and apps in the market nowadays. Do they really help? Do all the games help or only some of them do? Is it just a waste of time or money? Is it just overhyped?

IMG_9088 (1)A 10-year randomized controlled trial study with healthy elderly adults (average age 73.6) shows that brain training can cut the risk for dementia nearly by 50%. This study was presented at Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2016 by Dr. Edwards of the School of Aging Studies and Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute, University of South Florida, in Tampa.

Are all the training the same?

There are different programs and games. Some target the memory, some target reasoning, and some target speed-of-processing.

Memory testing is self-explanatory.

Reasoning training focused on the ability to solve problems that follow a serial pattern, such as identifying the pattern in a letter or number series or understanding the pattern in an everyday activity.

What is speed-of-processing? This is about the speed and accuracy of visual information processing while expanding the visual area over which a person could pay attention and make rapid decisions.

After 10 years, only individuals in the speed-of-processing demonstrated a statistically significant effect on cognition. This study gives some strong evidence that at least some types of cognitive training can indeed protect people from cognitive decline.

So what’s the real-world benefits?

  • quicker overall reaction times
  • safer on-road driving, reduced at-fault crashes, and maintenance of driving ability with age,
  • improvements in everyday functional performance,
  • protection against depression
  • and better self-rated health etc

It is not actually all too surprising that the speed of processing via the visual information processing has more impact on cognition. The majority of our daily sensory processing is through our eyes. In fact, visual examination is an important part of concussion testing. Perhaps there this type of speed of processing can also be used as part of concussion baseline testing.

The speed training used in the study is is available as an exercise called Double Decision. It is one of the exercises in BrainHQ ( www.brainhq.com ).

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