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A little brain training goes a long way, study finds

Older adults who received as few as 10 sessions of mental (cognitive) training showed improvements in reasoning ability and speed-of-processing lasting as long as 10 years after the intervention, findings in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society report.

"Showing that training gains are maintained for up to 10 years is a stunning result because it suggests that a fairly modest intervention in practicing mental skills can have relatively long-term effects beyond what we might reasonably expect," said lead author Dr. George Rebok of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD.

The investigators reported on the 10-year follow-up results of 2,832 participants who on average were 73.6 years old when the study began. They were divided into three groups. The memory training group learned techniques of remembering word lists and sequences of items, text material, and the main ideas and details of stories. The reasoning group received instruction on using patterns to solve problems such as reading bus schedules or completing forms. A third group received training to identify and locate visual information quickly, to help with tasks like reacting to traffic while driving.

The groups trained in 10 sessions of about an hour each for five to six weeks. Ten years later, about 60 percent of those who took the training were at or above the level of functioning they started at in terms of daily tasks, compared with 50 percent of the control group. Their memory performance had also improved for up to five years after the training. Most strikingly, their reasoning and speed-of-processing still showed significant improvements compared to the control group even after 10 years. Read more.   



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