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Must-read interview with George Rebok, PhD: Can cognitive training help aging brains?

george_rebokCan Train­ing Help Aging Brains? (Web­MD):

George Rebok, PhD, con­duct­ed one of the largest stud­ies to date look­ing at how cog­ni­tive train­ing affects old­er adults. Rebok, a pro­fes­sor at the Cen­ter on Aging and Health at Johns Hop­kins School of Pub­lic Health, talks about the study find­ings, com­mer­cial­ly avail­able brain train­ing, and what he rec­om­mends for brain health.

What we found was I think very encour­ag­ing and also some­what sur­pris­ing … all three inter­ven­tion groups showed sig­nif­i­cant improve­ment, both imme­di­ate­ly after train­ing, and it last­ed up through 5 years for all three groups. We did a 10-year post-train­ing assess­ment, and (improve­ments in) two of the three con­di­tions – rea­son­ing and speed of pro­cess­ing — were still sig­nif­i­cant after 10 years. Peo­ple who had this mod­est amount of train­ing – the train­ing only last­ed over 10 ses­sions over a 5 to 6- week peri­od– pro­duced these long-term ben­e­fits. It seemed like there was a pro­tec­tive effect there, that it helped peo­ple from declin­ing cog­ni­tive­ly.

Peo­ple who did the mem­o­ry train­ing were doing bet­ter, but it wasn’t sig­nif­i­cant at 10 years. So that was the first major find­ing, that we had the effects for the train­ing on these cog­ni­tive skills.

The sec­ond thing is that the train­ing gen­er­al­ized to every­day skills and abil­i­ties. At 10 years, all three groups report­ed less dif­fi­cul­ties car­ry­ing out their every­day activ­i­ties of dai­ly liv­ing — for exam­ple, man­ag­ing their med­ica­tions, or man­ag­ing their finances, or prepar­ing meals – these kinds of every­day activ­i­ties that help us remain inde­pen­dent…

There’s no doubt that this area is just a boom area right now, and by every indi­ca­tion, it’s going to con­tin­ue to increase, and not just train­ing with old­er peo­ple. Up and down the lifes­pan you see inter­est in cog­ni­tive train­ing now with chil­dren, and (in) young and mid­dle adult­hood. Train­ing isn’t just for old peo­ple wor­ried about Alzheimer’s dis­ease. It’s not just for cer­tain age groups. I think it’s some­thing for all peo­ple.

I think it’s going to go the way of per­son­al­ized med­i­cine, where train­ing becomes more indi­vid­u­al­ized. It’s not one size fits all, it’s going to be more sort of per­son­al­ized pro­grams that are real­ly matched to your lev­el of abil­i­ty and moti­va­tion and per­son­al­i­ty. We’re real­ly going to be able to much bet­ter fit the cog­ni­tive train­ing to indi­vid­u­als or groups of indi­vid­u­als instead of say­ing, ‘Go out and buy this pro­gram and hope it works for you.”

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Categories: Cognitive Neuroscience, Education & Lifelong Learning, Health & Wellness

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