For the first time researchers have identified a mental exercise that was associated with reducing the risk of dementia. Statisics show dementia affects 14% of people 71 and older and 30% over 90. With a estimated 34.4 million people having dementia world wide and an estimated cost of 422B.
Participants in this study led by Jerri Edwards were healthy adults age 65 and older and randomly assigned into one of four treatment groups:
- Strategy based memory problems.
- Strategy based reasoning training.
- Speed of processing training
- A control group that did not participate in any cognitive training program.
The researchers followed the participants for 10 years and found that the risk of developing dementia was 29% lower for participants in the computer based speed processing group. Dementia for memory and reasoning training was not significantly different compared to the control group. Amazingly there were measurable benefits even though the amount of training was small and spread out over time: 10 one-hour sessions over six weeks and up to eight “booster” sessions.
As the author states, “Speed training is distinct from memory and reasoning training as a perceptual/cognitive technique aimed at enhancing basic information processing efficiency with implicit learning mechanisms. In contrast, the memory and reasoning training arms are strategy-based and operate through explicit memory systems. Speed training may lower dementia risk by increasing brain reserve capacity through compensatory changes in function (e.g., enhanced capacity or efficiency of the brain) or via direct effects promoting viability of healthy tissue or decreasing the amount or effect of pathologic proteins and processes.”
The speed processing training used computerized adaptive learning software with touch screens. Participants were asked to identify objects in the center of the screen, while also identifying the location of briefly appearing objects in the periphery. The software would adjust the speed and difficulty of the based on how well participants performed.
The study, Speed of processing training results in lower risk of dementia, was co-authored by Huiping Xu, Daniel Clark, Lin Guey, Lesley Ross, and Frederick Unverzagt