Posit Science @ GSA: well-designed Brain Training Works

Newsweek’s Sharon Beg­ley writes a great note on Brain Train­ing: How It Works based on ini­tial data pre­sent­ed at the Geron­to­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Amer­i­ca over the week­end. Some quotes:

- With the nation’s 78 mil­lion baby boomers approach­ing the age of those dread­ed “where did I leave my keys? moments, it’s no won­der the mar­ket for com­put­er-based brain train­ing has shot up from essen­tial­ly zero in 2005 to $80 mil­lion this year, accord­ing to the con­sult­ing firm SharpBrains.

- Now comes the largest and most rig­or­ous study of a com­mer­cial­ly-avail­able train­ing pro­gram, and it shows that there is hope for aging brains. This morn­ing, at the meet­ing of the Geron­to­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Amer­i­ca, sci­en­tists are pre­sent­ing data show­ing that after eight weeks of dai­ly one-hour ses­sions with Brain Fit­ness 2.0 from Posit Sci­ence, elder­ly vol­un­teers got mea­sur­ably bet­ter in their brain’s speed and accu­ra­cy of pro­cess­ing. And unlike every oth­er train­ing pro­gram test­ed before, the improve­ments “gen­er­al­ize to broad mea­sures of cog­ni­tion and are notice­able in every­day life,” Eliz­a­beth Zelin­s­ki of the Uni­ver­si­ty of South­ern Cal­i­for­nia, who led the IMPACT (Improve­ment in Mem­o­ry with Plas­tic­i­ty-based Adap­tive Cog­ni­tive Train­ing) Study, reports.

- For the IMPACT study, 468 par­tic­i­pants, all healthy adults 65 and over, were divid­ed into two groups. One received an hour a day of train­ing on Brain­Fit­ness for eight to ten weeks, and the oth­er (the con­trol group) got the same amount of com­put­er-based learn­ing. That choice of con­trol group is sig­nif­i­cant. It means that Brain Fit­ness was being com­pared not to star­ing into space or some sim­i­lar­ly unhelp­ful activ­i­ty, but to one that might rea­son­ably be expect­ed to improve men­tal ability.

- Because the Brain Fit­ness group showed greater improve­ments than the con­trols, includ­ing on tasks that the com­put­er-based exer­cis­es did not explic­it­ly tar­get, it sug­gests that the audi­to­ry train­ing has altered some­thing fun­da­men­tal in the brain and not just spe­cif­ic cir­cuits for, say, memory.

Read full post: Brain Train­ing: How It Works

The Geron­to­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Amer­i­ca press release includes

- Researchers released ini­tial data today at the 60th Annu­al Meet­ing of The Geron­to­log­i­cal Soci­ety of Amer­i­ca (GSA) that showed that doing the right kind of brain exer­cise can enhance mem­o­ry and oth­er cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties of old­er adults.

- “We pre­sent­ed these impor­tant results at the Annu­al Meet­ing of GSA, because aging experts need to spread the word that cog­ni­tive decline is not an inevitable part of aging, said Dr. Zelin­s­ki. “Doing the prop­er­ly designed cog­ni­tive activ­i­ties can actu­al­ly enhance abil­i­ties as you age.”

I will be inter­view­ing Eliz­a­beth Zelin­s­ki as part of our Neu­ro­science Inter­view Series, so keep tuned.

One clar­i­fi­ca­tion: this is not the first study to show how cog­ni­tive train­ing can gen­er­al­ize beyond the tasks direct­ly trained. Oth­ers have already shown an effect on cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties and even on real-world tasks, on a vari­ety of age groups and trained func­tions. But the size of it (468 par­tic­i­pants) makes it by far the largest that does so, and the effects are very sig­nif­i­cant and promising.

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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