October 5, 2019
Tony Dearing

So you’ve been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and you’re determined to try something, anything that could help slow or halt or reverse that cognitive decline.

But where do you begin? What do you choose?

Well, you might want to start with something that’s been shown to work.

Your doctor will have many suggestions, and they’re all good ideas. But right now, in brain health, but there’s really only a few things that actually have solid evidence behind them.

And one of them is braining training. I am a big advocate of brain training, and I encourage anyone with MCI to consider it. Today, I have a special guest joining me to explain why.

I’m Tony Dearing, of GoCogno.com, the website for people with mild cognitive impairment.

Today, my guest is Steve Raymond. He’s had 25 years of experience in medicine, home care and nursing care, working with people in all stages of cognitive impairment, including MCI.

Steve and I have a couple of things in common. We both belong to a private Facebook group for people with MCI, and we are both big advocates of BrainHQ. So we got together recently for a Facebook Live to explain how BrainHQ has emerged as one of the best options for people with MCI.

Today, I have pulled together the best parts of that Facebook Live, offering you five good reasons you want to consider BrainHQ.

  • It’s a customized program that specifically targets your cognitive weaknesses.
  • It challenges your brain — not too much, just the right amount.
  • It protects against cognitive loss in a way that “brain games” like Sudoku can’t.
  • It’s been studied for a decade and has rigorous science behind it.
  • It has the potential help keep people driving longer and working longer.

But to begin, let’s explain exactly what BrainHQ is.

Steve Raymond: BrainHQ is a cognitive training program and it focuses on very specific brain attributes of attention, and brain speed, visual processing speed, navigation, facial recognition, there’s a number of people skills in general. There are so many different exercises and it’s like a workout, it’s a workout for the brain.

Your workout is customized for you, identifying your cognitive deficits and helping you improve in those areas.

Tony: So how, what is your training schedule on BrainHQ? How often do you train? How much do you train?

Steve: I try to stick to at least 5 days a week and 30-minute sessions. I’ve actually had 86 training days now with BrainHQ and for my age category, I’ve actually raised my percentile score, my average percentile score, up 20 points now, and I’ve noticed a difference in my actual, factual life. For me, Ibecause much of my public thing is talking about optimizing healthy aging, I want to be the Arnold Schwarzenegger of BrainHQ.

Tony: You know it looks like a game and people think it’s a game, but it’s an exercise. So if you go to the gym, you pick up five pounds and you do five curls, and you didn’t even break a sweat, you’re not exercising that muscle. You’ve got to stress the muscle to make it stronger. You’ve got to stress the brain to make it stronger and BrainHQ is a very scientific way to do that.

The BrainHQ exercises are designed to be challenging, but not too challenging. (So don’t let it frustrate you.)

Steve: BrainHQ deliberately has you operating at a certain success rate, what that also means is a certain failure rate. It tries to keep you at a 70 to 90 percent, so roughly around an 80 percent success. The program is automatically seeing where you’re operating and it will try to speed things up a little bit. And then until you hit failure, and then it will back off, then it will come up again. So the people who get frustrated, the idea is the program directly confronts you with that challenge failure.

Tony: Yes, my advice to people is just ignore the score, ignore the percentile, ignore the stars. Just play the game. If it’s pushing you too fast — sometimes it feels like you’re on the autobahn driving 80 and the guy behind you is tail-gating because he wants you to drive 90 and you’re like, “Leave me alone, I can’t go that fast.” Just slow down. The game will slow down for you. And people should do what you did, which is it’s not about, “Oh, did I get this one right or that one right or wrong today?” Just go back in a month and look at your scores and look at how that line is going up. Look at how much better you’re doing than you were. That progress comes over time.

Brain exercises benefit cognition by creating new neural connections. So-called “brain games” like Sudoku don’t have that effect and don’t prevent cognitive loss.

Steve: The goal of BrainHQ is actually to stimulate new neurogenesis, new brain cell neuron production and to stimulate increased synaptic connections between the brain cells. Now just like muscle, if you only lift 5 pounds, as you said, you’re not really going to gain muscle doing that. You have to challenge the muscle so there are certain hormonal changes that cause muscle growth. Same with neurogenesis. You have to be challenged up to a certain point to get that benefit. And that’s the difference from Sudoku. Those things can’t do that.

Tony:  Right, and it’s pretty clear. Neurologists say that those games are good to do, they’re certainly very enjoyable, they provide certain benefits but they don’t protect against cognitive decline.

BrainHQ has been studied rigorously for a decade and has strong evidence to show it reduces the risk of dementia.

Steve: The scientific evidence of its effectiveness is so overwhelming. I’m still picking my way through all the different studies to try to really get a handle on the number of papers that have been written, different focus, showing people with significant MCI having a benefit, and people in their 70s or 80s having a definitive benefit from this program. There’s another interesting point here. A lot of these studies show it’s not like people have to do it every day for years and years and years. They do it for a few months and it showed a benefit, and then they came back a year later and that benefit continued and they had like a little booster shot.

Brain exercises have the potential to help people with MCI continue driving longer, and working longer than they might otherwise have.

Steve: I firmly believe that it can keep people driving. That’s a big issue here in Maine, because seniors who live in very rural places, once they lose their privilege to drive it’s a real difficulty for them. And I’m a huge believer in that. I’m also a believer in people that want to keep their professional life going. I already experienced that in my productivity and my ability to stay focused in my work because I choose to still be employed. I’m not interested in retiring right now, and it’s helping me in that way.

Tony: So that’s the case for BrainHQ. If you’re interested, here’s a link to the BrainHQ website.

There are also other good programs out there. If you want to know more about them, you can get my brain training resource guide. It’s free when you sign up for my weekly brain health email, which also is free. You can get it by using the form below.

I hope you find it helpful, and I look forward to seeing you again next week. Until then, as always, be kind to your mind.