A type of mental exercise has been linked for the first time to a reduced risk of dementia.
The training is called ‘speed processing’ and involves identifying objects and their location on a screen.
As people improve at this cognitive task, the software speeds up.
The speed training was effective where more traditional memory and reasoning training had little effect on dementia.
Professor Frederick W. Unverzagt, who led the study, said it was comparatively easy training:
“We would consider this a relatively small dose of training, a low intensity intervention.
The persistence — the durability of the effect was impressive.”
The initial training was carried out in 10 one-hour sessions.
Most people subsequently did an extra four booster sessions.
Compared with a control group, and other comparisons, the speed processing training reduced dementia risk by 29%.
People were followed up one, two, three, five and 10 years later.
Impressively, the effects of the training were still there after 10 years.
This is some of the first strong evidence that mental training can help fight dementia.
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions (Edwards et al., 2017).