Review of Computer Games for Cognitive Health
– Responding to a study estimating a quadrupling of individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s Disease by 2050, George Mason University professor Andrew Carle has released a list of what he considers the best “Brain Games” available to consumers seeking to maximize cognitive function.
The study, presented June 10th at the International Conference on Prevention of Dementia in Washington, D.C., estimates that as the world’s population ages, Alzheimer’s could affect more than 100 million people by 2050.
Conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the study also stated that interventions that could delay onset of Alzheimer’s by as little as one year would reduce prevalence of the disease by 12 million cases by that time.
Carle, assistant professor and director of the Program in Assisted Living/Senior Housing Administration at Mason, is nationally and internationally known for coining the term “Nana” Technology to describe technologies that can improve quality of life for older adults.
The following computer-based brain games, according to Carle, represent among the best current technologies for addressing cognitive declines inherent in the aging process. The list reflects his opinions and is not based on formal criteria.
Posit Science – Brain Fitness Program 2.0: Developed in conjunction with more than 50 brain scientists, the program utilizes software that can be purchased for use on a home computer. Recommended “training” includes completion of 40-hours of a variety of 15-minute exercises over a period of 90 days.
A peer-reviewed study completed by the company showed an average 10-year improvement in memory among participants, with results maintained three months past conclusion of the training. $395/single user, $495/two users. Available at www.positscience.com
MindFit: Another software program, MindFit™ is part of a portfolio of products available from CogniFit™, an Israel-based company focusing on cognition products for people of all ages. The software provides a patented “Individualized Training System (ITS)”, taking users through 24, 20-minute training sessions. Recommended participation is three times per week.
Results of an independent, double-blind study released by the company at an International Alzheimer’s conference in Salzburg, Austria in March showed short-term memory improvement of 18% among participants age 50 and over. $129-$149. Available at www.cognifit.com.
Dakim [m]Power: Currently available only in assisted living, retirement, and related senior housing communities, the [m]Power™ was developed by former Hollywood and Disney executives in conjunction with the UCLA Center on Aging. A stand alone touch screen system eliminates the need for a mouse or keypad. “EasyTouch™” log-on allows those with early to mid-stage dementia to access and participate in a variety of entertaining and engaging activities across six cognitive domains.
Results are uploaded daily to a central computer, allowing individualized programming designed to maximize participation and results. A home version is scheduled for release this fall at an estimated cost of $1,995. Available at www.dakim.com.
MyBrainTrainer.com: While not supported by product specific research, this website-based program provides 19 exercises based on neuroscience and includes a recommended 21-day training program. Participants can track and measure personal results on a “Brain Diary”, or against any of the site’s 12,000 members by age, occupation, or other characteristics. $9.95 for one-year membership. Available at www.mybraintrainer.com.
While additional studies are needed to determine actual as well as long term benefits for any cognition improvement program, Carle states that research has determined that “brain strength” like “physical strength” is a “use it or lose it” proposition.
“Everyone will experience a decline in cognitive skills after age 50, just as athletes see a decline in physical skills,” stated Carle.
“What we know is that it doesn’t mean you can no longer function – even outperform younger individuals – or maximize either skill. You just have to be willing to work at it.”
Carle is a recognized expert on senior housing and care and founding director of the Program in Assisted Living/Senior Housing. His work has been featured in/on USA Today, UPI, The Washington Post, National Public Radio, Fox Morning News, and Retirement Living TV, among others.
About George Mason University
George Mason University is an innovative, entrepreneurial institution with national distinction in a range of academic fields. Enrollment is nearly 30,000, with students in 173 degree programs at campuses in Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William. This expansion is part of George Mason’s mission to further establish itself as a distributed university in which each of its campuses has a distinctive academic focus that plays a critical role in the economy of its region.