Study: For healthy older adults, social brain training offers the most clear benefits
If Home Brain Training Apps Don’t Work, What Does? (Healthline):
“In a study published online Nov. 18 in PLOS Medicine, Australian researchers reviewed 52 previous studies that looked at the benefits of computerized brain training software for 4,885 healthy seniors. While brain training programs like Lumosity, Cogmed, and Posit Science promise to help you strengthen your brain, the new study found mostly small benefits.
The largest impact of the software was on thinking speed, but the results were only moderate. Smaller benefits were seen for nonverbal and verbal memory, working memory, and visual/spatial skills. Attention and executive function — which include essential skills like planning and concentrating — did not improve significantly for people using the brain training apps.
Social Brain Training Offers the Most Benefits
The Australian researchers noticed that seniors in their study analysis who used brain training software at home showed very little mental improvement compared to those who worked in a group with a trainer.
The scientists suggest that having a trainer on hand may have helped by providing people with motivation and easy technical support. But there’s also a social component to group sessions that is likely to impact the brain.
“The more people have contact with people, the more their brain is stimulated,” said Lieff. “Isolation is the worst thing for anyone, but particularly for the elderly.”
- Background: New effective interventions to attenuate age-related cognitive decline are a global priority. Computerized cognitive training (CCT) is believed to be safe and can be inexpensive, but neither its efficacy in enhancing cognitive performance in healthy older adults nor the impact of design factors on such efficacy has been systematically analyzed. Our aim therefore was to quantitatively assess whether CCT programs can enhance cognition in healthy older adults, discriminate responsive from nonresponsive cognitive domains, and identify the most salient design factors.
- Methods and findings: We systematically searched Medline, Embase, and PsycINFO for relevant studies from the databases’ inception to 9 July 2014…No significant effects were found for executive functions and attention. Moderator analyses revealed that home-based administration was ineffective compared to group-based training, and that more than three training sessions per week was ineffective versus three or fewer. There was no evidence for the effectiveness of WM (working memory) training, and only weak evidence for sessions less than 30 min. These results are limited to healthy older adults, and do not address the durability of training effects.