“People genetically prone to Alzheimer’s who went to college, worked in complex fields and stayed engaged intellectually held off the disease almost a decade longer than others, a study found. [Read more…] about Mental stimulation over genetics: How to hold off Alzheimer’s Disease 8+ Years (even APOE4 carriers)
“Cognitive training has taken off amongst thousands of players and hockey programs [Read more…] about Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine Center adopts Intelligym cognitive training
The IMPACT study which we reported on in December 2007, funded by Posit Science, conducted by the Mayo Clinic and USC Davis, has just announced publication at the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Reference:
- Smith et al. A Cognitive Training Program Designed Based on Principles of Brain Plasticity: Results from the Improvement in Memory with Plasticity-based Adaptive Cognitive Training Study. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, April 2009.
- “The Improvement in Memory with Plasticity-based Adaptive Cognitive Training (IMPACT) study was funded by the Posit Science Corporation, which owns the rights to the Brain Fitness Program, tested in the study.”
- “Of the 487 healthy adults over the age of 65 who participated in a randomized controlled trial, half used the Brain Fitness Program for 40 hours over the course of eight weeks. The Brain Fitness Program consists of six audio exercises done on a computer, and is intended to “retrain the brain to discriminate fine distinctions in sound, and do it in a way that keeps the user engaged,” Zelinski explained.” The other half of participants spent an equal amount of time learning from educational DVDs followed by quizzes.
Comment: this is a very interesting study, in that it shows both that cognitive training works, and that it doesn’t work.
Sharon Begley, Newsweek’s science reporter, recently wrote that
- “With the nation’s 78 million baby boomers approaching the age of those dreaded ‘“where did I leave my keys?” moments, it’s no wonder the market for computer-based brain training has shot up from essentially zero in 2005 to $80 million this year, according to the consulting firm SharpBrains.
- “Now comes the largest and most rigorous study of a commercially-available training program, and it shows that there is hope for aging brains. This morning, at the meeting of the Gerontological Society of America, scientists are presenting data showing that after eight weeks of daily one-hour sessions with Brain Fitness 2.0 from Posit Science, elderly volunteers got measurably better in their brain’s speed and accuracy of processing.
We recently had the chance to interview Dr. Elizabeth Zelinski of the University of Southern California Andrus Gerontology Center, who led the IMPACT (Improvement in Memory with Plasticity-based Adaptive Cognitive Training) Study Sharon Begley refers to in the quote above.
First, some context on this study, which is by far the largest high-quality study of its kind. The study was prospective, randomized, controlled, and used a double blind trial. 524 healthy adults 65-year-old and over were divided into two groups. One received an hour a day of training for eight to ten weeks, and the other spent the same amount of time watching educational DVDs. The IMPACT study, funded by Posit Science corporation, was performed in multiple locations, including the Mayo Clinic, USCF, and San Francisco Veteran Affairs Medical Center.
The discussion centers at his point on the initial results that were presented Gerontological Society of America (the study hasn’t been published yet).
Alvaro Fernandez: Dr. Zelinski. Thank you for being with us. Could you start by setting the context and providing an overview of how human cognitive abilities typically evolve as we age based on insights from your Long Beach Longitudinal Study?
Elizabeth Zelinski: Of course. The first concept to understand is that different cognitive skills evolve over the lifespan in different ways. Some that rely on experience, such as vocabulary, actually improve as we age. Some tend to decline gradually, starting in our late 20s. This happens, for example, with processing speed (how long it takes us to process and respond to information), memory, and reasoning. We could summarize this phenomenon by saying that as we age we get better at dealing with the familiar, but worse at dealing with the new. We can always learn, but at a slower pace.
Are there any specific tipping or inflection points in this trend, any age when the rate of decline is more pronounced?
We don’t have a clear answer to that. It depends a lot on the individual. In general it is a gradual, cumulative process, so that by age 70 we statistically see clear age declines. Which, for example, is a strong factor determining why older adults struggle to adapt to new technologies, but why trying to learn them provides needed mental stimulation. Now we know that genes only account for a portion of this decline. Much of it depends on our environment, lifestyle and actions.
Can you summarize what a healthy individual can do to slow down this process of decline, and help stay healthy and productive as long as possible?
One general recommendation is to do everything we can to prevent or delay disease processes, such as diabetes or high-blood pressure, that have a negative effect on our brains. For example, it is a tragedy in our society that we usually reduce our levels of physical exercise drastically after we leave school.
Let me then ask: what are the relative virtues of physical vs. mental exercise?
Great question! That in fact leads into my second recommendation. Aerobic exercise has been shown to [Read more…] about Brain Training: No Magic Bullet, Yet Useful Tool. Interview with Elizabeth Zelinski
Today I have an announcement to make. You probably are seeingÃ‚Â all the articles about Brain Fitness in the press and wondering,Ã‚Â Ã¢â‚¬Å“What is this all about?Ã¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“Can someone help me navigate through all the programs out there?Ã¢â‚¬Â, Ã¢â‚¬Å“How is Brain Fitness relevant to me in my personal life or at work?Ã¢â‚¬Â.Ã‚Â Well…we are delivering a series of workshops to companies and organizations combining modules ‑including scientific overview,Ã‚Â the industry trends and key players, fun team-building exercises- that can be tailored to each organization’s specific needs. Sessions last from 1 to 6 hours, depending on the group’s composition and agenda and are delivered either in person or via web conference.
We want to be able to reach more organizations, so please let us know of any ideas!
Some recent examples
1. Managing Stress for Peak Performance (we mentioned some notes on anÃ‚Â AccentureÃ‚Â session)
New and challenging situations Ã¢â‚¬â€œ such as taking on new responsibilitiesÃ¢â‚¬â€œ can trigger reactions in our brain and body that limit or even block our decision-making abilities. These reactions may also harm our long-term brain power and health. Although we cannot avoid change and stressful situations, we can learn how to manage our stress levels to ensure peak performance-even in tough moments. The latest neuroscience research proves that stress management is a trainable Ã¢â‚¬Å“mental muscle.Ã¢â‚¬Â This is true for any high pressure profession, be it trading, sports, or simply modern life.
2. The Science of Brain Health and Brain Fitness (similar to what I will teach at UC Berkeley OLLI)
Neuroscientists have shown how the human brain retains neuroplasticity (the ability to rewire itself) and neurogenesis (the creation of new neurons) during its full lifetime, leading to a new understanding of [Read more…] about Brain Health and Fitness Workshops