Dementia could be prevented by brain training, study suggests

A new study funded by the US National Institute on Aging has found that a specific type of brain training may help to stifle the progression of dementia.

The results of the study, completed by ACTIVE (Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly), were announced at the Alzheimer Association’s International Conference in Toronto on July 24. The study determined that specific brain exercises, such as speed-of-processing training, could significantly reduce the probability of developing dementia.

The outcome of the research suggests that it may be effective in combatting Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions that can cause cognitive decline. Trials were conducted amongst a group of 2,802 cognitively healthy seniors, with an average age of 73.6, and compared the effects of three different forms of the ACTIVE brain training. Split into four groups, the first quarter of participants received no brain training, whilst the remaining three each received different types of brain training for five weeks, with training sessions lasting up to ten hours.

The three brain training exercises consisted of two classroom-based courses, one created to improve memory and the other to advance reasoning skills. The third and most effective was the computer speed-of-processing training, that aimed to increase the speed of visual processing, something that can deteriorate over time, with many neuroscientists believing that it is due to an increase in the sound in electrical communications between cells and regions in the brain.

Jerri Edwards of the University of South Florida, one of the authors of the study, believes that its results are a landmark within the field of research and said it is “the first time a cognitive training intervention has been shown to protect against cognitive impairment or dementia in a large, randomized, controlled trial.” She also discussed further research to gain more specific results: “Next, we’d like to get a better grasp on what exactly is the right amount of cognitive training to get the optimal benefits.”

In his IZA World of Labor article Is training effective for older workers?, Matteo Picchio discusses how training for older workers can both help and hinder them, noting that: “There are some concerns about the effectiveness of training in improving older workers’ employment prospects. Because of the inevitable decline in cognitive skills that accompanies aging, older adults take longer to acquire new skills and their training performance is worse than that of younger adults.”

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Is training effective for older workers? by Matteo Picchio