Brain training can help people at high risk of dementia

Research published today shows that computer-based brain training is able to help people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to improve memory, learning and thinking skills, as well as their mood.

The results are published in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

The researchers are the University of Syndey looked at the results from 17 clinical trials that totalled nearly 700 participants over the past 20 years. They found that brain training could help people with MCI to improve their cognitive skills - memory, learning, and attention, as well as their mood and perceived quality of life. However, when the results of trials involving people with dementia were included, the same effects were not seen.

People with MCI have problems with memory, thinking, attention and learning that are worse than would normally be expected for their age but do not interfere with their daily lives. MCI is not a type of dementia, but it does significantly increase the risk of developing the condition. It is estimated that up to one in five people aged over 65 have MCI.

Commenting on the review, 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.'