Brain training found to reduce dementia risk over a 10 year period

New research has shown a scientifically tailored computer brain training program can reduce the number of cases of cognitive decline and dementia over a decade by a third.

The research was presented today (Sunday 24 July) at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) held in Toronto.

The Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) study tested several types of brain training in 2,785 healthy older adults at six sites across the US.  Participants either received classroom-based memory strategies, classroom-based reasoning strategies, or computer-based training for processing speed, twice a week for 10 weeks. These groups were compared to a control group that received no brain training.

All participants received cognitive tests at 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 years after the training. After 10 years, those in the computer-based brain training group had a 33 per cent reduction in cases of cognitive impairment or dementia compared to the control group. There was no impact of either of the classroom-based training courses on cognition after 10 years.

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

'There is widespread excitement about the potential of brain training to protect against dementia as it's such an accessible and enjoyable tool, but so far long term studies have been lacking. This research provides the first evidence that computer-based brain training - in this case which improves the speed that your brain can process information - could reduce the likelihood of developing dementia over a decade.

'The evidence of a real-life benefit of brain training is significant and we now need to work out how this could be turned into an approach that is widely available. However, it's important to note that not all the brain exercises tested in this study had a positive effect on the rate of dementia, reinforcing the fact that we cannot generalise the positive findings to all brain training packages. 

'In the future, as government and society explore ways to enable people to live independently as they get older, computer brain training could have a growing role to play.'