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