Brain Training - Does it work?

Up to 30% of dementias may be preventable...

What’s good for your heart is good for your brain.
— Professor Kaarin Anstey, Australian National University
  • That means exercise and be active - physically and socially, a heart healthy diet (like the Mediterranean diet or DASH), quit smoking, treat depression, manage diabetes. 
  • In mid-life, long before most people think about dementia, controlling blood pressure, cholesterol, obesity, and diabetes, can go a long way to reduce the risk of dementia in the future.  
  • Research also shows Life-long learning is an important factor in preventing dementia. Lifelong learning helps build that "cognitive reserve" that's so important to keep sharp and doing what you love for longer.  

What about “Brain Training”?

Brain Training is popular and making headlines today.  But it's also very controversial.

Brain training – IS helpful for elders free of dementia. With one caveat.  

  • People doing the brain training at home with apps or others did NOT see functional benefits.
  • People doing brain training at a clinic or with supervision/the guidance of a skilled professional (e.g. Speech Therapist) who can customize and adapt the program to the individual, WAS effective, both overall and in specifically trained cognitive areas.

WHY does brain training work?

The current theory is that it improves the brains connectivity (neuroplasticity!!), helping the brain speed it’s connections between the Hippocampus (memory central) and Frontal Lobe (the planning and problem-solving areas of the brain).  Some brain slow-down is common in normal aging, but can cause concern among retired people.  If the brain’s connections can be stronger and faster, then less slow-down.

NO study has shown that brain training will prevent or cure dementia.

There was a recent study about seniors taking classes at a local university.  It didn’t improve cognition, but it may prevent/slow cognitive decline.  It DID INCREASE language by 92%.  This is great news, as language and cognition are so inter-connected.    Researchers don’t know if it was the learning or the social aspects of the program that caused the improvements, but it’s definitely something to think about.

What to do?

Are you working?  Take continuing education classes to further your skills and career.

Have children?  Take a class WITH your children.  Find out what are your children interested in and take a class in it together.  

Are you retired?  Take advantage of the universities and tech schools nearby!  Take classes at a tech school or University.  Learn a language, gardening, photography, architectural history, poetry, anything that you are interested in.

Are there certain areas of concern that you want to improve?  Contact a local speech pathologist to create a program to work directly on your individual concerns and needs.