Nov. 20, 2007 Doing the right kind of brain exercise can enhance memory and other cognitive abilities of older adults, according to new research.
Dr. Elizabeth Zelinski of the University of Southern California Andrus Gerontology Center presented data* from the IMPACT study (Improvement in Memory with Plasticity-based Adaptive Cognitive Training) – the largest study ever done on aging and cognitive training using a program available to the public.
In this prospective, randomized, controlled, double blind trial of 524 healthy adults (aged 65 and older), half the participants completed up to 40 hours of the computer-based Posit Science Brain Fitness Program. The other half, who followed the traditional advice that older adults will benefit from new learning, completed up to 40 hours of a computer-based educational training program.
The group that engaged in the Posit Science program showed significantly superior improvements in standardized clinical measures of memory gains of approximately 10 years. This is the first research study to show generalization to untrained standardized measures of memory using a publicly available cognitive training program.
Participants using the Posit Science program also showed significant improvements in how they perceived their memory and cognitive abilities. This included questions about every day tasks such as remembering names and phone numbers or where they had left their keys as well as communication abilities and feelings of self-confidence.
“The changes we saw in the experimental group were remarkable – and significantly larger than the gains in the control group” Dr. Zelinski said. “From a researcher’s point of view, this was very impressive – people got better at the tasks trained, those improvements generalized to various standardized measures of memory, and people perceived improvements in their lives.”
“My memory improved after I participated in the study,” said Marlene Allen of Mill Valley, CA, a study participant. “I also felt better and a lot more energized. I really had fun doing the training.”
Dr. John Smith of San Anselmo, CA is a semi-retired dentist, still working part-time. He finds that he functions well at work and gives the program credit for his interactions there. “I'm quicker to respond to questions and my memory is better.”
“We presented these important results at the Annual Meeting of GSA, because aging experts need to spread the word that cognitive decline is not an inevitable part of aging,” said Dr. Zelinski. “Doing the properly designed cognitive activities can actually enhance abilities as you age.”
*The initial data was presented November 19 at the 60th Annual Meeting of The Gerontological Society of America.
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