Australian researchers have discovered that brain training is effective for mild cognitive impairment, but not for dementia

Doing computer-based brain training programmes can improve memory and mood for people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), often seen as a precursor to dementia. However, training is no longer effective once dementia properly takes hold.

That’s what researchers from the Brain and Mind Centre at the University of Sydney have discovered, after reviewing more than 20 years of research. They found brain training could lead to improvements in global cognition, memory, learning and attention, as well as psychosocial functioning (mood and self-perceived quality of life) in people with mild cognitive impairment.

Dr Amit Lampit from the School of Psychology, who led the study, said the results showed brain training could play an important role in helping to prevent dementia.

‘Our research shows that brain training can maintain or even improve cognitive skills among older people at very high risk of cognitive decline – and it’s an inexpensive and safe treatment.’

Mild cognitive impairment is characterised by a certain level of memory decline, thinking problems, and learning issues, but not so that they impact on daily life. It’s considered a strong risk factor for dementia, with one in 10 of those with MCI going on to develop dementia within a year.

Brain training involves doing computer-based challenges and exercises, which are a bit like video games, to help enhance memory and thinking skills.

In this study, which was published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, researchers looked at 17 clinical trials involving 700 participants.

Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research and Development at Alzheimer’s Society, said:

‘We’ve seen a lot of excitement recently about brain training to help protect against dementia. While there's not much evidence that it can delay, or prevent the condition, this review shows that it could help people with mild cognitive impairment to improve their memory, thinking, and learning.

‘We're seeing more and more evidence of the real-life benefits of brain training, helping us to find potential ways of holding on to our cognitive abilities. Now, we need to work out how we could turn specially-designed brain training into activities that are widely accessible and available.’

For more information on brain training, click here.

Source: sciencedaily.com and alzheimers.org.uk