Computer-based brain training can halve the incidence of dementia, a surprising new study finds.
So far brain training has proved more of a fad than a useful a treatment.
But now research carried out over 10 years has found that a relatively small amount of brain training reduced older people’s chances of developing dementia dramatically.
For the study, healthy older adults did 10 brain training sessions of just over an hour.
They then had four further booster sessions a few years later.
Among the 2,832 people who started the study, 14% in the control group had developed dementia 10 years later.
This figure for those who had received the brain training was just 8.2%.
In general psychologists and others have found that brain training only produces relatively modest or inconsequential benefits.
So this study comes as a surprise.
Dr Jerri Edwards, the study’s first author, said:
“We believe this is the first time a cognitive training intervention has been shown to protect against cognitive impairment or dementia in a large, randomized, controlled trial.
Next, we’d like to get a better grasp on what exactly is the right amount of cognitive training to get the optimal benefits.”
The results could be down to the type of training that people were doing.
The training in this study encouraged them to speed up their processing.
Speed-of-processing training may be the key to the protective effect against dementia.
Alternatively, it may be that the brain training encouraged people to change their life in some way.
Some participants reported that the brain training had inspired them to keep intellectually engaged.
Dr Maria Carrillo, one of the study’s authors, said:
“The Alzheimer’s Association believes there is sufficiently strong evidence to conclude that lifelong learning and certain types of cognitive training may reduce the risk of cognitive decline.
These new 10-year findings are evidence that it may hold true for dementia as well as cognitive decline.”
The study was presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference 2016 in Toronto.
→ Explore PsyBlog’s ebooks, all written by Dr Jeremy Dean:
Thinking image from Shutterstock