(Tampa, FL) Simple mental stimulation is not enough to keep the brain fit. That is the message coming out of the Boomer Lifestyle Conference in Tampa, Florida today. Jeff Zimman, Chairman of Posit Science, a leading developer of brain fitness software, told aging experts gathered at the conference that not just any mental stimulation improves cognitive performance in older adults. Instead, he said, exercises that are scientifically designed are needed to drive clinically significant improvements in the brain.
A recently published study led by investigators at Mayo Clinic and The University of Southern California compared the effects of traditional mental stimulation through coursework versus mental stimulation from a brain fitness software program. The randomized controlled trial, called the IMPACT Study, followed 487 healthy adults aged 65 and older. Half were assigned to a group that trained on brain fitness software for 40 hours over 8 weeks. The other half spent an equal amount of time listening to lectures via computer and answering quizzes.
The study found that participants who trained on the software, The Brain Fitness Program(tm) from Posit Science(r), more than doubled their processing speed, with an average increase of 131%. They also saw gains on standard measures of memory and attention of 10 years, on average. These changes were big enough that participants reported significant improvements in every day activities (such as remembering names or understanding conversations in noisy restaurants). The gains of the brain exercise group were clinically significant; the gains of the lecture group were significantly smaller and not clinically significant.
The IMPACT study is the largest study ever of a brain fitness program that is available to the public and was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in April.
Zimman also reported on newly released follow-up study data that tracked participants for three months after the training. He said that training benefits lasted 90-days out, with some lessening of gains over time – suggesting that ongoing training would be even more beneficial.
“The changes we saw in the experimental group were remarkable – and significantly larger than the gains in the control group,” said Elizabeth Zelinski, PhD, the lead investigator from USC. “From a researcher’s point of view, this was very impressive because people got better at the tasks trained, those improvements generalized to standardized measures of memory and people noticed improvements in their lives. What this means is that cognitive decline is no longer an inevitable part of aging. Doing properly designed cognitive activities can enhance our abilities as we age.”
IMPACT study participant Marlene Allen agrees. The 75 year old Mill Valley, California resident says, “Now I don’t have to write down shopping lists. I remember what I need at the store. “And I almost never walk into a room and forget why anymore.”
The Brain Fitness Program was developed by a global team of neuroscientists from Posit Science, and consists of six exercises. The product is based on the science of brain plasticity – the brain’s ability to form new pathways in response to the right kind of stimulation.