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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.”

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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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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