Brain Training - what does the research say?

Why

Research in neuroplasticity shows the brain continues to “permit flexible change” (Alves, et.al.) throughout life. What does the evidence say about brain training?

What it is...

3 types of Cognitive treatments:

  1. Cognitive Stimulation Cognitive social groups (e.g. Newspaper review, relaxation training, apps) These groups are helpful, but it's unknown if that is because of the social or cognitive aspects (or both?).
  2. Cognitive Training General tasks pen/paper or those popular brain training apps. These work on individual skills, like memory, reasoning, attention, executive function, speed of processing, visualization, mind mapping, external aids.  Healthy aging adults do improve in the tasks, but it doesn't carry-over into everyday life.  Playing Sudoku means you get better at Sudoku.   
  3. Cognitive Rehabilitation This is where there's potential!  Focused on individualized client challenges and goals, speech therapists offer cognitive rehabilitation.  Research shows improvement in both goal performance and satisfaction. 

Who benefits?

The type of dementia has a significant impact on the effectiveness of the treatment.

Evidence supports

  • Healthy adults, MCI, Alzheimer’s and Vascular Dementia types have had the most research and demonstrated the most benefit.
  • A 2012 study on Primary Progressive Aphasia from 2012 that indicated benefits in language performance and naming skills.

Limited evidence

  • Lewy Body and Frontal Temporal Dementia have minimal research supporting this type of training. Secondary symptoms (e.g. behaviors, hallucinations) affect ability to participate in a cognitive rehabilitation program, which may be why there’s so little research on cognitive stimulation programs.

How much training?

More research is needed, but most programs were 90-120 minutes a week, 1-2 times a week, for 6-10 weeks.

 

References (if you'd like to read the studies supporting)
Alves, J., Magalhaes, R., Machado, A., Goncalves, O., Sampaio, A., & Petrosyan, A. (2013). Non-pharmacological cognitive intervention for aging and dementia: Current perspectives. World Journal of Clinical Cases WJCC, 1(8).
Bourgeois, M. (2013). Therapy Techniques for Mild Cognitive Impairment. Perspect Neurophysiol Neurogenic Speech Lang Disord Perspectives on Neurophysiology and Neurogenic Speech and Language Disorders.
Fleck, C., & Corwin, M. (2013). Evidence-based decisions: Memory intervention for individuals with mild cognitive impairment. EBP Briefs, vol. 8, 1–14.