Blog | Tuesday, January 14, 2014

QD: News Every Day--Brain training finds way to keep seniors' minds sharper

Advanced cognitive training helped elderly people maintain their functioning, and the effect lasted a decade after the training stopped, a study found.

Training in reasoning and speed resulted in improved targeted cognitive abilities for 10 years in a follow-up of the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) trial.

A volunteer sample of more than 2,800 people in 6 cities (mean baseline age, 73.6) living independently were randomized to 3 intervention groups for training in memory, reasoning, or speed of processing, and a no-contact control group.

Intervention groups were given 10 training sessions for memory, reasoning, or speed of processing, and then 4 sessions of booster training 11 and 35 months after the initial training. Outcome assessments done immediately after the intervention, and at 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10 years. Training was conducted in small groups in 10 sessions of 60 to 75 minute over 5 to 6 weeks.

Results appeared online Jan. 13 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Participants in each of the 3 intervention groups reported less difficulty with instrumental activities of daily living (memory: effect size=0.48, 99% CI=0.12 to 0.84; reasoning: effect size=0.38, 99% CI=0.02 to 0.74; speed of processing: effect size=0.36, 99% CI=0.01 to 0.72).

By the time participants reached a mean age of 82, approximately 60% of trained participants were at or above their baseline self-reported functioning at 10 years compared to 50% of controls (P<0.05). Participants maintained their reasoning and speed-of-processing interventions at 10 years (reasoning: effect size=0.23, 99% CI=0.09 to 0.38; speed of processing: effect size=0.66, 99% CI=0.43 to 0.88). Memory training effects faded, however.

Booster training produced additional and durable improvement for reasoning performance (effect size=0.21, 99% CI=0.01 to 0.41) and the speed-of-processing intervention for speed-of-processing performance (effect size=0.62, 99% CI=0.31 to 0.93).

Researchers noted that the effects of cognitive training on daily function were modest, and limited to the cognitive ability that had been trained over the years.

“Viewed in this way, it is not surprising that the specific forms of cognitive training used in ACTIVE did not result in improvements on performance-based measures of daily function that are really multi-ability cognitive tests,” the authors wrote.

They added, “These results provide support for the development of other interventions, particularly those that target multiple cognitive abilities and are more likely to have an effect on [instrumental activities of daily living] IADL performance. Such interventions hold the potential to delay onset of functional decline and possibly dementia and are consistent with comprehensive geriatric care that strives to maintain and support functional independence.”