“Brain training” video game beats dementia in trials.

Indiana University psychology researchers have definitely proved, after 10 years of study, that a particular kind of video game, as part of a brief brain-training regimen, can keep age-related dementia at bay:

Indiana University School of Medicine Professor of Psychiatry Frederick W. Unverzagt, PhD, said results of the multi-site study of 2,802 older adults demonstrated that cognitive training, called speed of processing, showed benefits up to 10 years after study participants underwent the mental exercise program.

Q: You and your colleagues found that a brain exercise called speed of processing reduced the risk of dementia in older people, and other types of exercises might be beneficial as well. Does this mean that most of us should do these kinds of exercises — especially the speed of processing — that they may help us avoid or delay dementia?

Dr. Unverzagt: Our data suggests that it could have a protective effect, and as long as the exercises are fun and engaging for you, there’s an indication it could be helpful. On the other hand, if they make you nervous, or get you depressed, don’t do them.

Q: Any thoughts on why the speed of processing approach might have been more beneficial?

A: Our understanding is that the type of processing used for that training operates through different memory system. There’s an explicit memory system and a procedural system. The explicit system is conscious learning, like being in a classroom, listening to content come in, drilling on it, trying to retain it.

The speed of processing system is procedural. You get better at something by dint of doing it – over and over and over again. It is a different network of brain regions that are involved, and it may be that is part of the puzzle. And it may be that the adaptive part of the training – the part that’s like a computer game – interacts with that.

The game, if you want a spin, is here https://www.brainhq.com/why-brainhq/about-the-brainhq-exercises/attention/double-decision.

And there’s more details on the research in this IU article:

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.

[via /r/science]