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The Benefits of a One-Time Cognitive Training Program Do Last but Wane Over Time

Do you remember the IMPACT study published in 2009? It was a randomized clinical trial with healthy older adults that compared a computer-based cognitive program that trains audi­tory pro­cess­ing (Brain Fitness Program, Posit Science) with educational video programs (control group). People who used the program improved in the trained tasks, which was not that surprising, but there was also a clear ben­e­fit in audi­tory mem­ory, which wasn’t directly trained.

A 2011 paper reports the 3-month follow-up results of the IMPACT study. The 487 participants in the original study were 65 and older. Training was 1 hour a day, 4 to 5 days a week, for a total of 40 hours in 8 to 10 weeks. There was no contact with the researchers between the initial training study and the follow-up study.

The results showed that 3 months after the initial training most of the improvement observed in the training group was still present, although not as strongly. In other words, without reinforcement, the cognitive training effect was maintained but waned over time.

So what’s the take-home message? Let’s look at physical fitness. We do not expect 2 months of intense abdominal training to last a lifetime but instead regularly go to the gym. The same is true with brain fitness. It looks like you cannot train your brain for a few months and then stop and expect the benefits to last forever. Regular training is needed.

Related post: Cognitive Training can Boost Sense of Control

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2 Responses

  1. Sammi Law says:

    My latest endeavor is to finally make a commitment to reading more. I put it off for decades, but now I believe it may help me write more effectively; and it does seem to be improving my spelling.

    Similar to staring a physical training program, I had a head ache at first, but I think I got passed that stage.

    Thanks for your article. I found it encouraging.

  2. In the spirit of this latest update from the IMPACT study and the recent BBC Bang Goes the Theory ~Does brain training games make you smarter ~(whatever that means), I would like to see a similar event take place here in North America, same format, using the show MythBusters as the medium of choice, BUT THIS TIME, use more scientifically plausible parameters ie restrict the age to say 53 yrs and up, increase the daily workouts to say 1 hour, and 4 or 5 times a week for say 3 months. After this time period has elapsed, then show the control group vs the brain trainging group, live on TV! Just like in Europe. I’m certain the results would be far different than what was portrayed via Dr. Adrian Owen et al. What could then follow is a debate between Adrian Owen and say Michael Merzenich or Elizabeth Zelinski regarding the differences in test results

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