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Computer brain training cuts dementia risk

Computerised brain-training focused on mental quickness can reduce the risk of dementia among older adults by a third, a study has shown.

The ACTIVE Study enrolled 2802 healthy older adults at six sites around the US and followed them for 10 years – as they aged from an average of 74 to 84 years.

“Speed of processing training resulted in decreased risk of dementia across the 10-year period of, on average, 29 per cent as compared to the control,” said lead author Jerri Edwards, PhD, University of South Florida.

The more training they received the greater the protective effect, said Dr Edwards.

As part of the study participants were randomised into a control group or one of three interventions using different types of cognitive training. The first group received instruction on memory strategies, the second group received instruction on reasoning strategies, and the third group received individual computerised speed of processing training.

Participants in the cognitive training groups were offered 10 initial sessions of 60-75 minutes of training which was conducted for six weeks.

All participants were assessed on a number of cognitive and functional measures at the beginning of the study, after the first six weeks, and every year for five years and then again at 10 years.

Each intervention group also received four additional “booster” training sessions in months 11 and 35 of the study.

Researchers found no significant difference in risk of dementia for the strategy-based memory or reasoning training groups, as compared to the control group.

However, as compared to the control group, the computerised speed training group showed significantly less risk of dementia and those who completed more sessions had lower risk.

Among those who completed 15 or more sessions across all three intervention groups, the risk of dementia for the computerised speed training group was lowest at 5.9 per cent, as compared to 9.7 per cent and 10.1 per cent for the memory and reasoning groups, respectively.

The control group, which did not engage in any training, had a dementia incidence rate of 10.8 per cent.

Dr Edwards says more research is now needed to investigate what makes some computerised cognitive training effective, while other types are not.

The results of the randomised control trial is published in journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions.

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