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Preventing dementia with computerized brain training

November 16, 2017

Brain training using a specialized computer program can reduce the risk of dementia by almost one third, a newly published study shows. The participants were involved in the training over a ten-year period.


Elderly people can reduce the risk of dementia by exercising brain training on a computer, a study by researchers from the University of South Florida in Tampa has shown.

The team led by Jerri Edwards launched their long-term experiment, Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE), in 1999 to find out whether a training method called "useful field of view," or UFOV, actually helps reduce the risk of dementia.

And as it turns out, it apparently does: 2,802 healthy adults between the ages of 74 and 84 participated in the experiment. They were randomly put into either a control group or one of three other groups that received different types of cognitive training.

Not every type of cognitive training works

The first group received instruction on memory strategies, the second group on reasoning strategies and the third group received individualized computerized speed of processing training or UFOV.

The participants had their cognitive and functional capabilities tested during the first six weeks of the study and then again after one, two, three, five and finally 10 years. The researchers published their results in the scientific journal "Alzheimer's & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions" on November 14, 2017.

While the researchers did not find a significant difference in "risk of dementia" between the control group (where the risk was detected in 10.8 percent of participants) and the first two groups that participated in strategy-based memory (9.7 percent) or reasoning (10.1 percent) exercises, there was a significant change in those participants who took the computerized speed training. They only showed a 5.9 percent risk of dementia.

Prevention - not a cure

The exercise was developed by Karlene Ball of the University of Alabama Birmingham and Dan Roenker of Western Kentucky University. It it now available as the "Double Decision" exercise of the BrainHQ.com training program.

"We need to further delineate what makes some computerized cognitive training effective, while other types are not," Edward says. "We also need to investigate what is the appropriate amount of training to get the best results." What is clear, however: Cognitive training can be a preventive measure, but it is not a cure or treatment for dementia. 

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