Can This Brain Exercise Put Off Dementia?

Posted on October 15, 2016

Photo: flickr

The results of the study, called ACTIVE, for Advanced Cognitive Training in Vital Elderly, were presented at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Toronto, the world's largest gathering of Alzheimer's researchers. The study is believed to be the first to demonstrate that a behavioral intervention can reduce the incidence of dementia. Many people practice various brain-training exercises to keep the mind limber as they age.

Previous research released as part of the ACTIVE study showed all three types of brain training tested led to improvements in cognitive function and the ability to perform daily living skills, such as preparing a meal. Speed training topped the other techniques in reducing the incidence of at-fault car crashes and forestalling declines in health, and was the only intervention to protect against symptoms of depression.

Participants getting only the initial 10 hours of training had on average a 33% lower risk for developing dementia 10 years later, whereas those who received the additional sessions reduced their risk by 48%. It isn’t clear whether speed training affects the neurophysiological processes that cause dementia, says Glenn Smith, chairman of the department of clinical and health psychology at the University of Florida, in Gainesville, who has done independent research with similar products. But at minimum they can help "people develop reserve or resilience in the face of whatever brain changes are happening that would lead to dementia," he says.

Following the ACTIVE study, Dr. Edwards says the next step would be a trial to determine the optimal dose of training and understand how it affects the brain. Such a trial would take people at risk for developing dementia and give them the training to see if it prevents development of the disease.

"Dementia by definition involves functional impairment," Dr. Edwards says. "So if we’re improving people’s everyday functional performance" through speed training, their likelihood of developing dementia may go down.

"The potential to benefit is great and the risks are none to minimal," she says. She recommends people start speed training beginning at age 50.

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Category(s):Cognitive Problems Amnesia / Dementia, Dementia

Source material from The Wall Street Journal