First brain training exercise positively linked to dementia prevention identified

First brain training exercise positively linked to
dementia prevention identified


November 16, 2017


Indiana University


Aging research specialists have identified, for the first
time, a form of mental exercise that can reduce the risk of dementia.

Aging research specialists have identified, for the first
time, a form of mental exercise that can reduce the risk of dementia.

The cognitive training, called speed of processing,
showed benefits up to 10 years after study participants underwent the mental
exercise program, said Frederick W. Unverzagt, PhD, professor of psychiatry at
Indiana University School of Medicine.

The proportion of participants who underwent the training
and later developed dementia was significantly smaller than among those who
received no cognitive training, the researchers said.

There were measurable benefits even though the amount of
training was small and spread out over time: 10 one-hour sessions over six
weeks initially and up to eight booster sessions after that.

“We would consider this a relatively small dose of
training, a low intensity intervention. The persistence — the durability of
the effect was impressive,” said Dr. Unverzagt, who explains more in a
Q&A blog post.

Results from the Advanced Cognitive Training in Vital
Elderly — ACTIVE — study of 2,802 older adults were recently reported
in Alzheimer & Dementia Translational Research and Clinical
Interventions, a peer-reviewed journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.

The researchers, from IU, the University of South
Florida, Pennsylvania State University and Moderna Therapeutics, examined
healthy adults aged 65 years and older from multiple sites and who were
randomly assigned to one of four treatment groups:

•             Participants
who received instructions and practice in strategies to improve memory of life
events and activities.

•             Participants
who received instruction and practice in strategies to help with problem
solving and related issues.

•             Participants
who received computer-based speed of processing exercises — exercises designed
to increase the amount and complexity of information they could process

•             A
control group whose members did not participate in any cognitive training

Initial training consisted of 10 sessions lasting about
an hour, over a period of five to six weeks. A subset of participants who
completed least 80 percent of the first round of training sessions were eligible
to receive booster training, which consisted of four 60 to 75-minute sessions
11 months and 35 months following the initial training. Participants were
assessed immediately after training and at one, two, three, five and 10 years
after training.

After attrition due to death and other factors, 1,220
participants completed the 10-year follow-up assessment. During that time, 260
participants developed dementia. The risk of developing dementia was 29 percent
lower for participants in speed of processing training than for those who were
in the control group, a statistically significant difference. Moreover, the
benefits of the training were stronger for those who underwent booster
training. While the memory and reasoning training also showed benefits for reducing
dementia risk, the results were not statistically significant.

Dr. Unverzagt noted that the speed of processing training
used computerized “adaptive training” software with touch screens.
Participants were asked to identify objects in the center of the screen, while
also identifying the location of briefly appearing objects in the periphery.
The software would adjust the speed and difficulty of the exercises based on
how well participants performed.

In contrast the memory and reasoning programs used more
traditional instruction and practice techniques as might occur in a classroom

Earlier studies had shown that ACTIVE cognitive training
improved participants’ cognitive abilities and the ease of engaging in
activities of daily living five and 10 years after the initial training.
However, an examination of the role of ACTIVE cognitive training on dementia
incidence was not significant after five years of follow-up.


Story Source:

Materials provided by Indiana
University. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.


Journal Reference:

1.            Jerri
D. Edwards, Huiping Xu, Daniel O. Clark, Lin T. Guey, Lesley A. Ross, Frederick
W. Unverzagt. Speed of processing training results in lower risk of
dementia. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research &
Clinical Interventions, 2017; DOI: 10.1016/j.trci.2017.09.002