Australian researchers have found that engaging in computer-based brain training can improve memory and mood in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.
However, once cognitive limitations advance to a level for which dementia is diagnosed, the training is no longer effective.
The University of Sydney team reviewed more than 20 years of research and showed that brain training could lead to improvements in global cognition, memory, learning, and attention, as well as psychosocial functioning (mood and self-perceived quality of life) in people with mild cognitive impairment.
Conversely, when data from 12 studies of brain training in people with dementia was combined, results were not positive.
The results appear in the American Journal of Psychiatry.
Mild cognitive impairment involves a decline in memory and other thinking skills despite generally intact daily living skills, and is one of strongest risk factors for dementia.
People with mild cognitive impairment are at one-in-10 risk of developing dementia within a year and the risk is markedly higher among those with depression.
Brain training is a treatment for enhancing memory and thinking skills by practicing mentally challenging computer-based exercises which are designed to look and feel like video games.
Researchers believe the results show that brain training can play an important role in helping to prevent dementia.
“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,” said Dr. Amit Lampit of the university’s School of Psychology.
The team combined outcomes from 17 randomized clinical trials including nearly 700 participants, using a mathematical approach called meta-analysis, widely recognized as the highest level of medical evidence.
The team has used meta-analysis before to show that brain training is useful in other populations, such as healthy older adults and those with Parkinson’s disease.
“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,” Lampit said.
Source: University of Sydney/EurekAlert