Cognitive training helps regain a younger-working brain

Posted on January 31, 2018

The experiment was conducted with a random sample of 57 adults (age 56 to 71), assigned to 3 groups, a cognitive training group, a wait-listed control group, or physical exercise control group. Recently published in Neurobiology of Aging, researchers found that after cognitive training, participants' brains were more energy efficient, meaning their brain did not have to work as hard to perform a task. For the study, scientists studied participants' neural activity while they performed tasks.

The cognitive training utilized the Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART) program developed at the Center for BrainHealth. Cognitive training strategies included how to pick out key information from other less relevant pieces of information; methods to take in information daily to probe deeper thinking; and aerobic exercise, given that it has been proven to improve processing speed and functional changes within the frontal and other brain regions.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), an imaging technique that measures brain activity, researchers examined all three groups at the beginning (baseline), middle, and end of the study while participants performed computer-based speed tasks in the scanner.

Results showed that cognitive training enhanced speed-related neural activity, significantly in the cognitive training group as for increases in association between relaxation time and frontal lobe activity. This is consistent with the more energy-efficient neural activity found in younger adults, enabling the earlier conclusion to be drawn. On the other hand, the wait-listed and physical exercise groups showed significant negative results for the association between reaction time and frontal lobe activation.

Dr. Michael Motes, senior research scientist at the Center for BrainHealth and one of the lead authors of the study, said, "Finding a nonpharmacological intervention that can help the aging brain to perform like a younger brain is a welcome finding that potentially advances understanding of ways to enhance brain health and longevity. It is thrilling for me as a cognitive neuroscientist, who has previously studied age-related cognitive decline, to find that cognitive training has the potential to strengthen the aging brain to function more like a younger brain." It has been remarked that this finding will pave the way for larger clinical trials to test the ability to harness the potential of the aging mind and its ability to excel.

Category(s):Aging & Geriatric Issues

Source material from Science Daily

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