Brain game could reduce dementia risk

"You can never totally forget about the importance of a good diet, but in terms of your risk of dementia, you are better able to accommodate some of the brain damage that is associated with consuming this kind of (unhealthy) diet", Parrott said at the Alzheiemer's Association International Conference in Toronto, according to an article by Tara Bahrampour of The Washington Post.

People who work in jobs that task the intellect are better able to withstand the effects of brain lesions commonly associated with Alzheimer's disease, report researchers from the University of Wisconsin's Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. Of the three other groups, one got a classroom course on strategies for boosting memory; another got a classroom course on sharpening reasoning skills and the third received computerized training to increase their visual processing ability, the Times reported.

The ACTIVE (Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly) trial recruited more than 2,800 people aged 65 to 94 who carried out one of three cognitive interventions - classroom-based training focused on memory and executive reasoning, and a commercially-available computer programme - called Double Decision - created to boost speed of processing.

The groups got in total 10 hours of training in the initial 35 days, and almost half of every experimental group received an extra training following 11 months and 35 months.

One of the groups got no training at all. Over a period of 10 years, 2,802 cognitively healthy older adults, whose average age was 73.4 when the study began, were divided into four groups, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Moreover, participants who took part in the other two training programs, which focused on memory retention and reasoning, were slightly less likely than the control group to suffer cognitive decline or dementia. The game exercises an individual's ability to detect, remember and respond to cues that appear and disappear quickly in varying locations on a computer screen. The Alzheimer's diagnosis is usually based on mild cognitive impairment, but researchers are now focusing on mild behavioral impairment as an early indication of the disease. The program becomes increasingly hard as users get answers correct, increasing ability over time.

It's not clear why speed mental processing training works, or the exact changes it causes to the brain. This is a crucial finding since many scientists have been skeptical of the brain training industry.

"We object to the claim that brain games offer consumers a scientifically grounded avenue to reduce or reverse cognitive decline when there is no compelling scientific evidence to date that they do".

Study: Edwards J et al.

Although fewer patients developed cognitive decline or dementia during the decade following the baseline study, researchers call the difference classroom-based training made not significant.

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