Computer brain training may reduce dementia risk by almost 30%

Henrietta Strickland
November 17, 2017

Dr Rosa Sancho, from Alzheimer's Research UK, added: "The researchers relied on participants to self-report their dementia diagnosis, a method that can be less reliable than clinical tests".

Elderly women of Gulu, show excitement as they queue to receive money from the SAGE grant recently.

Digital brain-training exercises have been hailed as the first kind of intervention recognised as able to dramatically cut the risk of dementia in older people.

The fourth group, a control group, did not engage in any training.

Now a study of 2,800 people over the age of 65 has found that those who did a type of brain-training meant to boost a person's brain processing speed were 29 per cent less likely to develop dementia over a ten-year period. Participants were assessed immediately after training and at one, two, three, five and 10 years after training.

"When we examined the dose-response, we found that those who trained more received more protective benefit".

Those who received additional training sessions, 11 and 35 months after the first training session, showed even lower rates of dementia.

Participants in the first three groups were given 10 initial 60- to 75-minute sessions of cognitive training over six weeks.

Different types of cognitive training were offered to three groups, with one receiving instruction on memory strategies, another instruction on reasoning strategies and the third receiving computerised "speed of processing" training.

The p-value for the outcome that speed-training decreased dementia risk is 0.049-just under the threshold.The researchers aren't hiding anything; these data are all available for anyone to find and evaluate for themselves.

Speed-of-processing training involved a very specific task that was created to improve the speed and accuracy of the participants visual attention, EureakAlert reported.

To perform the divided attention training task, a user identified an object (i.e., auto or truck) at the center of gaze while at the same time locating a target in the periphery (i.e., car). As trials go on, the objects are shown for shorter amounts of time, among other distracting objects, and with increasingly detailed backgrounds, so that the game gets progressively more hard.

The paper notes that this particular type of computerized brain training has previously been shown effective across more than 18 clinical trials in older adults on standard measures of cognitive abilities (e.g., speed of processing and attention) and functional abilities (e.g., maintaining the ability to live independently, depressive symptoms, feelings of control, and health-related quality of life), as well as in real world activities (e.g., driving safety, balance and gait).

"We need to further delineate what makes some computerized cognitive training effective, while other types are not", Edward says.

"We also need to investigate what is the appropriate amount of training to get the best results", Dr Edwards continued.

"The results reported here, of apparent reduction in risk of dementia after 10 years following only a few hours of cognitive training, are therefore rather surprising and should be treated with caution", said Rob Howard, professor of old age psychiatry at University College London. There's a booming market in computer games created to improve a person's memory, attention, or multitasking skills, for example, but evidence on whether they work any better than other types of computer game has been mixed.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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