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 quickly.
- A control group whose members did not participate in any cognitive training program.