Western Australians will be the first in the country to take part in a brain fitness initiative that has been shown to improve a person’s ability to think faster, focus better and remember more.
The brain health initiative will be launched by Australia’s Aged Care Commissioner Rhonda Parker on behalf of Alzheimer’s Australia WA at the Duxton Hotel on September 19th as part of Dementia Awareness Week 2008.
More than 30 peer-reviewed papers report on randomized controlled trials using the technology now being offered in two cognitive training software programs being distributed by Alzheimer’s Australia WA. The studies show that participants using the software programs more than doubled their processing speed and had gains of more than 10 years in standardized measures of memory and attention. This has led to significant lifestyle benefits for people experiencing normal age-related changes in brain function.
Alzheimer’s Australia WA General Manager David Gribble said the programs that will be offered in Australia were developed and extensively trialled by US company Posit Science in conjunction with one of the world’s leading neuroscientists, Dr Mike Merzenich, and his team at the University of California. The programs have also been extensively researched over many years by renowned research institutions such as the Mayo Clinic, University of Southern California and Stanford University.
“The results from these studies have shown that people who went through the brain fitness programme added about 10 years to their cognitive abilities and memory functions,” Mr. Gribble said.
“This meant people were more likely to live independently for longer, while reducing their health care expenditure and experience a better quality of life.”
Mr. Gribble said staying mentally active has long been recommended as a way to reduce the risk of dementia which, due to the ageing population, is set to become the nation’s number one cause of disability burden in less than 10 years.
“Brain training may also deliver social and economic benefits, as there is evidence to suggest that if people feel in control and are thinking sharper, they are less likely to contemplate an early retirement,” he said.
Alzheimer’s Australia WA identified Posit Science’s brain fitness programs as the world’s most effective memory and sensory enhancement products following an extensive two-year search, and a review undertaken by the Centre for Research on Ageing at Curtin University of Technology.
Posit Science Vice-President Eric Mann said the brain fitness programs were designed with the older person in mind and are very easy to use.
“They are meant to be used 40-60 minutes a day and for a total of 10 to 40 hours over a 90 day period in order to match the results shown in the studies,” he said. “Of course, many people decide just to incorporate brain exercise into their regimen for 3-5 hours a week on a continuous basis.”
The levels of scientific scrutiny that have gone into the programs were more extensive than any study into the effectiveness of specific mental activities such as doing crosswords and Sudoku.
Australia’s Aged Care Commissioner Rhonda Parker said that maintaining mental sharpness is one of the keys to successful ageing.
“Brain fitness training challenges the notion that we are somehow pre-programmed to inevitable decline in later life. In fact, the data shows that much of the decline in later life is the result of lifestyle choices, and training the brain works in the same way that fitness training benefits the body,” Ms Parker said.
She said studies have shown that the brain’s natural plasticity means the brain has the capacity to grow and change right up until death, enabling brain fitness training to not only slow decline in mental sharpness, but reverse some of the loss already experienced.
“As people live longer, mental fitness is as important as physical fitness as we look for ways to extend quality across all our days,’ she said.