February 24, 2006
ABC 7 (KGO) News
Jennifer Olney

People used to think losing your memory and mental sharpness was an inevitable part of getting old. But a growing body of research shows you may be able to keep your brain fit the same way you do your body — with exercise. ABC7 gives you a look at computer software designed to teach old minds new tricks.

Sooner or later, it happens to everyone — a momentary lapse that reminds us we’re not getting any younger.

Kathy: “I’m not 50 yet and I walk into a room and can’t remember why I am there.”

Ralph: “I can remember everything in World War II, but I don’t remember what I did yesterday.”

This graduation ceremony in Livermore is for senior citizens who may have just turned back the clock on some of that memory loss.

Grace Curran: “I seem to remember things better and things that I didn’t know was down there just come to the surface.”

The seniors just finished an eight week class using “The Brain Fitness Program.”

It’s computer software designed to improve memory and thinking skills.

The program was created by a Bay Area company called Posit Science, using research from a top neuroscientist at UC San Francisco.

Henry Mahncke, PhD, Posit Science: “This training program really rewires the way the brain processes, speech.”

Dr. Henry Mahncke: “When you want to remember what you’ve heard, that information is sent up here to the front of the brain as well as to structures in the middle of the brain that deal with memory, and again, the training program has exercises here that are specifically designed to strengthen those connections.”

Users do the program for one hour a day, five days a week, for 2 months.

In this exercise you have to tell if the sound gets higher or lower.

It’s not easy, and it’s not supposed to be.

Maryalyce Fales: “You got very irritated at times, but it was worth every day I went.”

The company says results vary from person to person. But many show significant improvement that seems to reverse the brain’s aging process.

Dr. Henry Mahncke: “We typically see in our studies an improvement in memory and cognitive function of around an average of ten years.”

Stanford University is using brain imaging to try to pinpoint the exact effects of the program. But the users we talked to are already convinced.

Johann Hill: “You’ll go looking for something, your classes or keys or something you know. And I found that I can remember where they are a lot better than I did before the class.”

Dick Angel: “It’s opened up doors for keeping aware and alert and growing a little bit more. At 82, there’s still life ahead.”

The brain fitness program is available for groups or individuals, but it’s not cheap. Prices start at $500 dollars.

For more information, visit http://www.positscience.com