Pensioners can reduce their risk of dementia by nearly a third by playing a computer brain training game similar to a driving hazard perception test, a new study suggests.
Trial participants who honed their thought processing and attention skills using the specialised programme decreased their risk of dementia by 29 per cent.
The more they used the training package, the lower their chances were of developing the condition.
American scientists behind the trials said this brain training is the first intervention of any kind to reduce the risk of dementia among older adults, however the results have been cautiously welcomed by UK researchers who say much more work is needed to prove the intervention works.
Currently about 7.1 per cent of people over 65 in the UK suffer a form of dementia.
The training exercise known as “speed of processing training”, “useful field of view training”, or “UFOV training” involves training participants on a highly specific task designed to improve the speed and accuracy of visual attention, including both divided and selective attention exercises.
The divided attention training task involves the user identifying an object such as a lorry in the centre of the gaze while at the same time locating a target in the periphery such as a car.
As the user gets it right, the speed of presentation becomes progressively quicker while the targets become more similar.
In the more difficult training tasks, the target in the periphery is obscured by distracting objects, engaging selective attention.
The trial involved 2,802 healthy older adults with an average age of 74 at six sites around the United States and followed them for 10 years.
They were either given instruction on memory strategies, instruction on reasoning strategies or individualised computerised speed of processing training.
All were offered 10 initial sessions of training of 60 to 75 minutes per session over the first six weeks of the study.
“When we examined the dose-response, we found that those who trained more received more protective benefit,” Professor Jerri Edwards of the University of South Florida, who led the research.
It was published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions.