Jan 29, 2007
By: Caroline Latham
Here is question 13 of 25 from Brain Fitness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Questions. To download the complete version, please click here.
Are there specific brain fitness programs for adults?
- In the course of normal aging, some cognitive funcions and brain processing speed slow down.
- Without specific activities to keep your brain engaged, neurons are more likely to die off without being replaced.
- Novelty, variety and constant challenge are key ingredients for good programs. Learning a new language or musical instrument can be great options.
- There are also computer-based programs. A good program should include an assessment, a variety of challenging tasks that use different cognitive skills, regular practice, and feedback.
“The generally accepted knowledge about the brain is that it starts going downhill fairly early in life, which is true, and that there is little one can do about changing that pattern, which is not true. Increases in cortical growth as a consequence of stimulating environmental input have been demonstrated at every age, including very old age.”
— Dr. Marion Diamond, Professor of Integrative Biology, UC Berkeley.
Yes, there are ways for adults to improve their cognitive functioning. Some are demanding activities such as learning a new language or a musical instrument. There are science-based software programs designed to provide a comprehensive brain workout specifically for adults who want to maintain an agile and sharp mind.
A good program should include an assessment, a variety of challenging tasks that use different cognitive skills, regular practice, and feedback. It should also be easy to use with minimal computer knowledge and based on scientific research.
The advantage of computerized brain fitness programs is the ability to create an individualized training regimen for your exact level of cognitive skill. No two people are alike, and no two training regimens should be alike. A good Brain Fitness Program provides an initial assessment to learn your current level of ability and then work to challenge and improve both your strengths and your weaknesses. The software adapts to your performance and provides tougher challenges as you improve. It can also provide customized training schedules and feedback during and after your training session.
Look for programs that focus on life abilities such as: working memory, visual and auditory short term memory, planning, location memory, naming, time estimation, divided attention, and hand-eye coordination. These are all skills that are trainable and can generalize to your daily life.
- Diamond, Marian C. Successful Aging of the Healthy Brain. Conference of the American Society on Aging and The National Council on the Aging, March 10, 2001; New Orleans, LA; First Joint Conference.
- Goldberg, Elkhonon. 2005. The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger As Your Brain Grows Older New York City: Gotham Books. ISBN: 1592401104.
- Hultsch D, et al. Use it or lose it: Engaged lifestyle as a buffer of cognitive decline in aging? Psychology and Aging. 1999;14:245-263.
- Scarmeas N, Stern Y. Cognitive reserve and lifestyle. J Clin Exp Neuropsychol. 2003;25:625-33.
- Stern, Yaakov, editor. 2007. Cognitive Reserve: Theory and Applications. New York: Taylor & Francis.
- Willis SL, Tennstedt SL, Marsiske M, et al. Long-term effects of cognitive training on everyday functional outcomes in older adults. JAMA. 2006;296:2805-14.
- Wolinsky FD, Unverzagt FW, Smith DM, Jones R, Stoddard A, Tennstedt SL. The ACTIVE Cognitive Training Trial and Health-Related Quality of Life: Protection That Lasts for 5 Years. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2006;61:1324-9.