What is the evidence suggesting ‘brain training’ is a preventative measure against Alzheimer’s?
Cognitive training concerns structured activities to improve memory, reasoning, and processing speed. There is promising but inconclusive proof that specific, computer-based cognitive training may delay or slow age-related mental decay. However, there is no proof that it can stop or delay Alzheimer’s-related mental impairment. Studies indicate that cognitive training can enhance the kind of cognition a person is trained in. For instance, seniors who received 10 hours of practice designed to improve their speed and accuracy in reacting to pictures presented briefly on a computer screen got quicker and better at this particular task and other tasks in which enhanced processing speed is essential.
Similarly, seniors who received hours of instruction on effective memory strategies displayed improved memory when employing those strategies. The critical question is whether such training has long-term advantages or translates into better performance in daily activities such as driving and remembering to take medicine. Some of the most substantial proof that this might be the case is from the NIA-sponsored Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly trial. In this trial, healthy seniors participated in 10 memory, reasoning, or speed-of-processing training sessions with licensed trainers during five weeks, with “booster sessions” available to some participants 11 months and three years after the initial trial. The sessions enhanced participants’ mental skills in the area where they were trained (but not in other regions), and advances persisted years after the training was ended.
Additionally, participants in all three groups noted that they could complete daily activities with increased independence as many as ten years later. However, there was no objective data to support this. Findings from long-term observational analyses also indicate that informal cognitively engaging activities, such as reading or playing games, may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s-related cognitive impairment and dementia. For instance, a study of nearly 2,000 cognitively normal seniors found that participating in competitions, computer use, and being socially active for about four years was associated with a lower risk of MCI.