Mild cognitive impairment in older adults may improve with computer-based brain training before dementia diagnosis. The researchers reviewed over 20 years of research and found that brain training could improve cognitive function, memory, learning, and attention, along with psychosocial functioning (mood and self-perceived quality of life). On the other hand, when data from 12 brain studies of brain retraining in dementia patients was combined, the results were not positive.
Brain training is a treatment for enhancing memory and thinking skills by practicing computer-based exercises intended to challenge the brain. These exercises are designed to look and feel like games.
Study lead Dr. Amit Lampit explained, “Our research shows that brain training can maintain or even improve cognitive skills among older people at very high risk of cognitive decline — and it’s an inexpensive and safe treatment.”
The researchers combined data from 17 randomized clinical trials involving nearly 7,000 participants. The meta-analysis showed that brain training could yield positive results among older adults, even those with Parkinson’s disease.
Dr. Lampit added, “Taken together, these wide-ranging analyses have provided the necessary evidence to pursue clinical implementation of brain training in the aged-care sector — while continuing research aimed at improving training effectiveness.”
Associate professor Michael Valenzuela added, “The great challenges in this area are maintaining training gains over the long term and moving this treatment out of the clinic and into people’s homes. This is exactly what we are working on right now.”
Crossword puzzles: Crossword puzzles target several different areas of the brain, including recall and problem-solving function. In some puzzles, the activity may last for days, triggering areas of the brain for longer periods.
Computerized brain training: This type of brain training was designed to increase the speed of visual processing and has been shown in research studies to reduce the risk of cognitive decline by at least 33 percent.
Strategy-based reasoning training: In research studies, strategy-based reasoning training improved executive function, increased recall ability, and enhanced information retention.
Socially complex jobs: Having a socially complex job can protect your brain in the long run. Studies have shown that individuals who worked in a socially complex job can go many more years dementia-free, as their brains have a greater resilience and advanced ability to function despite injury.
Other simple brain exercises: Learn a foreign language, play a board game, play online video games, partake in local adult education courses, and attend lectures and classes.
The fact of the matter is, the more you use your brain, the healthier it will be in the long run. Find brain-challenging games and activities in order to maintain your memory for many years to come.