In the most rigorous study on the topic to date, researchers compared different types of cognitive training and concluded that one strategy—brain training that helps the mind process information quicker—can significantly lower rates of cognitive decline and dementia. The study involved about 2,800 healthy older people in a five-week training program. They were assigned to either no intervention or one of three tracks: improving memory skills; boosting reasoning skills; or a computerized program that focused on processing speed. Participants were then followed for 10 years, By the end, only those who did speed-processing training showed improvement: a 35% lower rate of dementia or cognitive impairment, even with no additional training, compared with those who received no training at all.
The program used in the study, created by a researcher at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, was purchased by Posit Science, a company marketing commercial brain-training programs. It developed an updated version, which is available online or as an app called BrainHQ for $96 for a year. For now, it’s the only one of its kind on the market—although if additional research proves promising, others will likely follow.