Medicine

Computer brain training may reduce dementia risk by almost 30%

Computer brain training may reduce dementia risk by almost 30%

The training was first delivered in ten sessions over six weeks, with some people receiving "booster" sessions.

Now about 7.1 per cent of people over 65 in the United Kingdom suffer a form of dementia.

"Existing data indicate speed training is effective among older adults with and without mild cognitive impairment, but it is important to understand this is preventative to lower risk of dementia and is not a treatment for dementia".

They point out that dementia diagnosis in the study was not performed to clinical standards.

In a press conference, Jerri Edwards, a University of South Florida psychologist and lead author of the paper, described the simple game: it shows users a flash of an image, like a vehicle, and then asks them what it was.

Participants in the trial were assigned at random to four groups: one did computer exercises, a second one followed a series of traditional memory exercises, another did reasoning exercises, and the fourth, a control group, did nothing at all.

However, the Alzheimer's Society believe that there are limitations to the research that need to be taken into account.

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The researchers evaluated participants' mental capacities-like being able to remember words, directions, or make quick decisions-after six weeks, and then one, two, three, five, and 10 years later.

The training exercise known as "speed of processing training", "useful field of view training", or "UFOV training" involves training participants on a highly specific task created to improve the speed and accuracy of visual attention, including both divided and selective attention exercises.

To perform the divided attention training task, a user identified an object (i.e., auto or truck) at the center of gaze while at the same time locating a target in the periphery (i.e., car). As trials go on, the objects are shown for shorter amounts of time, among other distracting objects, and with increasingly detailed backgrounds, so that the game gets progressively more hard. "In the more hard training tasks, the target in the periphery is obscured by distracting objects, engaging selective attention". The participants were divided into four groups - a control group, one that received instructions on memory strategies, one that received instruction on reasoning strategies, and one that were given speed-of-processing training on a computer - over 10 sessions lasting up to 75 minutes each.

This is the first time any lifestyle intervention-diet, exercise, or brain training-has shown to stave off this type of neurodegenerative disease. There is substantial prior scientific literature on this training exercise, which is referred to as "speed of processing training", "useful field of view training", or "UFOV training".

However, new research released today has shown that computerised brain training could lower the likelihood of suffering from the condition.

"We also need to investigate what is the appropriate amount of training to get the best results".

She added that while speed training is effective among older adults with and without mild cognitive impairment, the training is meant to lower the risk of developing dementia not as a treatment for it. There's a booming market in computer games created to improve a person's memory, attention, or multitasking skills, for example, but evidence on whether they work any better than other types of computer game has been mixed.