Dementia Research News - Spring 2017

2. Brain training

Woman doing a brain training game

Researchers combined results from existing studies of computerised brain training, finding that it can help to improve thinking skills.

Online brain training is growing into a multimillion pound industry. In 2015, a study funded by Alzheimer’s Society found that a brain training package can improve memory and reasoning skills, and help older people in their day-to-day lives. However, less is known about whether brain training can prevent dementia specifically.

In this recent study, researchers at the University of Sydney looked at results from 17 clinical trials carried out over the past 20 years. They measured changes in the thinking skills of people who have dementia and people diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, who have minor problems in areas such as memory or language.

The researchers found that brain training could help people with mild cognitive impairment to improve their cognitive skills – memory, learning and attention – as well as their mood and perceived quality of life. However, the same effects were not seen for people living with dementia.

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

‘We’ve seen a lot of excitement recently about brain training to help protect against dementia. While there’s not much evidence that it can delay or prevent the condition, this review shows that it could help people with mild cognitive impairment to improve their memory, thinking and learning.

‘We’re seeing more and more evidence of the real-life benefits of brain training, helping us to find potential ways of holding on to our cognitive abilities. Now we need to work out how we could turn specially designed brain training into activities that are widely accessible and available.’