'Brain training' cut dementia risk in healthy adults -U.S. study

Before you go, we thought you'd like these...
Before you go close icon
The Brain Games Pushing Back Time and Potentially Alzheimer's

CHICAGO, July 24 (Reuters) - A computerized brain training program cut the risk of dementia among healthy people by 48 percent, U.S. researchers said on Sunday in reporting an analysis of the results of a 10-year study.

The preliminary findings, presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Toronto, are the first to show that any kind of intervention could delay the development of dementia in normal, healthy adults.

SEE ALSO: Sanders says would prefer Elizabeth Warren over Kaine as vice presidential pick
​​​​
To date, cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists have largely rejected evidence that computer-based cognitive-training software or "brain games" have any effect on cognitive function.

The new findings would be quite promising if they hold up through peer review and publication in a scientific journal, said Dr. John King, an expert in social research at the National Institute of Aging. The institute is part of the National Institutes of Health, which funded the study.

King worked on the original clinical trial on which the new analysis is based. The study, known as Active, examined the effects of cognitive training programs on 2,785 healthy older adults.

RELATED: Notable figures with Alzheimer's

13 PHOTOS
Notable people with Alzheimer's
See Gallery
Notable people with Alzheimer's
This file photo dated 04 November, 1991 shows US President Ronald Reagan giving a speech at the dedication of the library bearing his name in Simi Valley, California. He was US president from 1981 to 1989 and retreated from public life after it was revealed he was suffering from Alzheimer's disease. (Photo by J. David Ake, AFP/Getty Images)
In this Jan. 28, 2013, file photo, Tennessee head coach emeritus Pat Summitt smiles as a banner is raised in her honor before an NCAA college basketball game against Notre Dame in Knoxville, Tenn. Tennessee seniors Cierra Burdick and Ariel Massengale were part of the last class of Lady Vols to play for Pat Summitt. (AP Photo/Wade Payne, File)
Glenn Campbell performs during The Goodbye Tour at the Ryman Auditorium on January 3, 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Ed Rode/Getty Images)
Picture dated 18 May 1991 of US actor Charles Bronson during the 44th Cannes film festival, southern France. Bronson died 30 August 2003 in Los Angeles of complications from pneumonia. (Photo by Gerard Julien, AFP/Getty Images)
American painter Norman Rockwell, 75, poses in his Stockbridge, Mass., studio on Feb. 12, 1977. (AP Photo)
Boxer Sugar Ray Robinson in posed action, May 8, 1947. (AP Photo)
Abigail Van Buren, the 71-year-old advice columnist, was in Seattle to address the fall meeting of the Pacific Northwest Newspaper Association, Sept. 28, 1989. (AP Photo/Robert Kaiser)
Actor Peter Falk on March 10, 1989 at his home in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Nick Ut)
Undated file photo of American actress and film star Rita Hayworth.(AP Photo)
392653 01: Actor Burgess Meredith performs in the television show 'The Twilight Zone.' (Photo Courtesy of Sci Fi Channel/Getty Images)
Actress Estelle Getty of "The Golden Girls" is shown at Trumps Restaurant in West Hollywood Jan. 29, 1986. (AP Photo/Steve Dakes)
LOS ANGELES - AUGUST 31: Actor James Doohan recieves his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame August 31, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Mark Mainz/Getty Images)
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE
SHOW CAPTION +
HIDE CAPTION

Participants were divided into three groups. One got training for memory improvement, one for reasoning and one with computerized training in speed-of-processing.

In the speed training, which emphasized visual perception, individuals were asked to identify objects on a screen quickly. The program got harder with each correct answer.

Participants had 10 one-hour training sessions conducted in a classroom setting over five weeks. Some received four additional "booster" sessions one year after the original training, and four more two years after that.

Scientists measured cognitive and functional changes immediately and at one, two, three, five and 10 years after the training to see if it affected how participants performed daily tasks.

Results of that study, published in 2014, found modest benefits in the reasoning and speed-of-processing groups, but not memory.

The new analysis was by Dr. Jerri Edwards of the University of South Florida, whose mentor, Dr. Karlene Ball of the University of Alabama at Birmingham, sold her rights to the program to Posit Science. Edwards also was a paid consultant for the company for part of 2008.

The program is now incorporated in Posit Science's BrainHQ.com brain training program.

Edwards did a secondary analysis of the 10-year data, looking at the time it took individuals to develop dementia.

She found that the group that did speed training showed 33 percent less risk of dementia relative to the control group, while the memory and the reasoning interventions offered no such benefit.

People who completed 11 or more speed training sessions were at 48 percent less risk for developing dementia over the 10 years of the study, Edwards said.

"At first blush, that's kind of a big deal," Mayo Clinic Alzheimer's expert Dr. Ronald Petersen said. "This may even be clinically relevant."

In 2014, a group of nearly 70 neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists led by researchers at Stanford University's Center on Longevity and the Berlin Max Planck Institute for Human Development signed a letter saying there was "little evidence" of such results from brain games. The letter was in response to heavy marketing by companies touting the benefits of their programs based on scant scientific data.

Edwards said she was frustrated with the scientific debate, which is one reason she agreed to present her findings before they were published. "I'm sick of our studies being ignored," she said.

King said the training offered in the program was slightly different from the current Posit Science offering and that it was unclear whether speed training would help people who are already at risk for dementia.

"It's a promising result from an interesting data set," he said. "I do think we will know more after the paper is reviewed." (Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)


Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.

From Our Partners