Sydney: Computer-based brain training can improve memory and mood in older adults with mild cognitive impairment — one of strongest risk factors for dementia — new research has found.
Brain training is a treatment for enhancing memory and thinking skills by practising mentally challenging computer-based exercises — which are designed to look and feel like video games.
“Our research shows that brain training can maintain or even improve cognitive skills among older people at very high risk of cognitive decline – and it’s an inexpensive and safe treatment,” said lead researcher Amit Lampit from University of Sydney.
Mild cognitive impairment involves a decline in memory and other thinking skills despite generally intact daily living skills, and is one of strongest risk factors for dementia.
People with mild cognitive impairment are at one-in-10 risk of developing dementia within a year – and the risk is markedly higher among those with depression.
But the study, published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, also showed that computer-based brain training is no longer effective once a dementia diagnosis has been made.
The researchers reviewed more than 20 years of research and showed that brain training could lead to improvements in global cognition, memory, learning and attention, as well as psychosocial functioning in people with mild cognitive impairment.
Conversely, when data from 12 studies of brain training in people with dementia was combined, results were not positive.
The team earlier showed that brain training is useful in other populations, such as healthy older adults and those with Parkinson’s disease as well.
“Taken together, these wide-ranging analyses have provided the necessary evidence to pursue clinical implementation of brain training in the aged-care sector — while continuing research aimed at improving training effectiveness,” Lampit said.