A massive study released last week found that brain games and training can help slow the cognitive decline that comes with aging. The study, funded by the National Institute of Health and published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, is the first to find long-term benefits associated with brain games.
Researchers placed subjects in groups receiving speed-based tasks, memory exercises, reasoning games, or nothing at all. Sessions lasted about an hour and took place over six weeks. Testers evaluated subjects immediately following the trials and at intervals throughout ten years. At the end of the study, 71 percent of participants who received speed training performed at or above their level from the start of the study compared with 48 percent in the control group. Those who participated in reasoning games showed improvement as well, with 74 percent performing at or above their initial marks compared with only 62 percent of the control group. The memory games had no effect on performance.
While the study conclusively shows the brain games work, it does not address how or why. Next steps include searching for these mechanisms through brain monitoring equipment and MRIs. The authors of the study do not yet know why the memory exercises failed to spur improvement. Hypotheses include the possibilities that current tools are not strong enough to detect the differences or that the way memories are formed and stored makes them immune to this type of training.
These results could vastly improve seniors’ lives. According to an author of the study, while many people worry about developing dementia, the gradual cognitive decline that comes with aging affects far more people. The elderly commonly experience decreased capabilities when reasoning or processing information quickly, which robs many seniors of their independence.
The researchers caution that these brain exercises help to delay mental decline, not cure it. Participants in the speed and reasoning groups were able to perform tasks as though they were 10 years younger, which could have a significant impact on future generations. As life expectancy continues to rise, brain games could keep minds sharper for longer.
My take? This is awesome. My hunch is that other activities that require similar attention—puzzles, music, video games, etc.—have similar effects. (This would have to be tested, of course). Improved, longer lasting cognition could drastically improve seniors’ lives while providing massive social benefits. The longer people are healthy and active, the better for everyone around them. What’s your take? Is this surprising? Strangely intuitive? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. As always, please like, share, or reblog this post if you enjoy it. That small click really helps me out! Be sure to check me out on Twitter and Facebook as well. Thanks for reading! Don’t forget to subscribe for new content every Wednesday! IT’S FREE!
Other related articles:
In the news:
Comment question of the week
What kind of effects do you think this could have? Do you do any activities to keep your mind sharp?