October 17, 2006

(ATLANTA, GA) A carefully designed brain exercise regimen can significantly improve the ability of older adults to perform complex tasks, according to researchers from Posit Science, who presented a study this week at the Society for Neuroscience, a gathering of 30,000 brain scientists.

“Complex tasks place demands on attention and working memory,” Natasha Belfor, Ph.D., an author of the study explained. “We know that attention and working memory decline with age, which is why fairly routine tasks can seem increasingly challenging as we age.”

The meta-analysis of several randomized, controlled studies showed that participants who engaged in an eight week brain exercise regimen showed statistically significant improvement in a cognitive test designed to measure performance at complex tasks. The standardized test is commonly known as the Token Task and it measures a person’s ability to follow increasingly complex instructions.

“This indicates a greater ability after training to deal with the routine challenges of daily life,” said Henry Mahncke, Ph.D., head of the Posit Science research team. “Such challenges might include following a recipe, navigating a phone tree, filing a complaint, taking your medications or following driving directions.”

“Improving abilities at complex tasks encourages people to be more engaged in life, which, in turn, has other positive cognitive effects,” Dr. Mahncke added.

The study measured the performance of 264 healthy adults over age 60. There were 137 participants who engaged in the brain exercise regimen and 128 participants split into two control arms, with some engaged in an eight week computer-based learning activity, and others in a no contact group engaged in no special activity.

The brain exercise regimen was designed by Posit Science and is marketed as the Brain Fitness Program. It consists of six computer-based exercises designed to improve auditory memory and cognition. Participants used the program for an hour a day, five days a week for eight weeks.

The study showed a statistically significant increase in the performance of the group using the Brain Fitness Program when compared to the control groups. The gains were substantial. “This training program represents a departure from previous approaches because it addresses the brain functions that cause memory problems, not just the symptoms,” said Dr. Mahncke.

Dr. Mahncke explained that the program consists of six exercises designed to:

  • Engage the brain to reverse the effects of disuse.
  • Improve the brain’s ability to process, store, and recall speech accurately.
  • Exercise the key modulatory systems that govern learning and memory.
  • Strengthen auditory processing, including the ability to hear in noisy situations.

“While modern medicine has increased lifespan, these exercises are designed to match ‘brainspan’ to our growing lifespan,” Dr. Mahncke observed.

Studies recently published in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and in Progress in Brain Research showed that the Brain Fitness Program, can improve auditory memory and cognition, on average, by more than 10 years in older adults.

More information about the Brain Fitness Program can be found at www.PositScience.com