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Study: For healthy older adults, social brain training offers the most clear benefits

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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.”

Study: Com­put­er­ized Cog­ni­tive Train­ing in Cog­ni­tive­ly Healthy Old­er Adults: A Sys­tem­at­ic Review and Meta-Analy­sis of Effect Mod­i­fiers (PLOS Med­i­cine)

  • 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.

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