Brain Training Can Have Lasting Effects in Seniors

brain training gearsBrain Training Can Have Lasting Effects in Seniors - An NIH funded study showed that some types of brain training can have positive effects on cognitive abilities even 10 years later. This study, dubbed ACTIVE (Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly)...

which put 2,832 older adult volunteers through different brain training activities is one of the largest and longest studies examining whether or not training can help older adults stave off cognitive decline. The training consisted of 10 sessions lasting from 60-70 minutes over the course of five to six weeks. Follow up test were conducted one, two, three, five, and ten years after the initial training. While all participants experience decline from their baseline tests, those who went through reasoning and speed of processing training experienced less decline than those who went through memory training or had none at all.

Brain-gearsTraining as an Intervention

National Institute on Aging Director, Richard J. Hodes, M.D., says that these long term results “suggest that we should continue to pursue cognitive training as an intervention that might help maintain the mental abilities of older people so that they may remain independent and in the community.”

If the training is effective, the question then becomes how to get more seniors doing more kinds of training to keep their brains sharp. In the past couple of years, online brain fitness websites and programs have sprung up, and though the true validity of each might not be yet determined, they highlight a valuable platform for cognitive training – the computer.

Use Computers for Seniors to Train

While older adults have been slow to adopt computer technologies, there has been growth in the recent years, and now finally, more than half of Americans age 65 and older use the internet. Furthermore, with a computer like Telikin, which is specifically designed for seniors, this opportunity of online training is more of a reality. On a web-based platform, any program can be designed to be easily accessed by a senior in the comfort of their own home. Even if some initial instruction is needed for the user to comfortably and accurately use the program, they could then complete training as frequently as prescribed – even daily if needed!

Additionally, some research has shown that learning new skills could help reduce cognitive decline, so learning to use a computer in and of itself may be helpful. One study published in the Psychological Science journal tested the effects of different activities – learning a new skill (quilting or digital photography), performing non-demanding in-home activities (crossword puzzles and listening to classical music), or engaging in social activities (field trips or entertainment tips) – on cognitive vitality. Only those who learned a new skill showed improvement. Lead researcher Denise Park of the University of Texas at Dallas, explained, “Only the groups that were confronted with continuous and prolonged mental challenge improved.” Learning to use a computer, which requires new skills and different ways of thinking, could be the kind of mental challenge needed to show similar improvements in cognitive vitality in older adults.

As the research continues to grow on this subject, we’ll have a more clear understanding of exactly what can be done to help our minds age better, and with the latest technologies, doing so will be easier than ever.

Read more about the ACTIVE Study on the NIH website.

Read more about the study in Psychological Science.

Top photo courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Bottom photo courtesy of Mr Lightman / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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30 January 2014, 14:55
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