SAN FRANCISO, CA – A new review article tackles the competing headlines on the efficacy of brain training, looking across the data, and finding a growing consensus that computerized cognitive training has benefits. Much of the compelling evidence that brain training is effective in older adults comes from studies of exercises found only in the app BrainHQ from Posit Science.
The review, in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging focuses on the four largest studies of brain training in older adults and on the most recent and comprehensive meta-analyses of studies on cognitive training and aging. The review is authored by an international team of leading researchers in the field of cognitive training, including authors from the University of Miami, King’s College London, Boston University, and Posit Science.
“Four large randomized controlled trials and multiple meta-analyses have found consistent evidence that CCT [Computerized Cognitive Training] improves cognitive performance and real-world function in healthy older adults,” the authors write. They go on to note that not all cognitive training is the same and that different approaches “have distinct effects.”
The four largest studies collectively enrolled 6,921 subjects, and all showed improvements in standard cognitive measures, as well as in measures of real world function. Interestingly, one of those studies was a follow-on report to a study first published in 2010 in Nature, which initially got wide coverage for reporting no impact from cognitive training; however, when the data for older adults was examined and published five years later, the same research team reported significant impact in older adults in standard measures of both cognition and maintaining real-world independence. That shift in outcomes mirrors a growing consensus in the medical community.
In 2015, the Alzheimer’s Association found “sufficiently strong evidence” that risk of cognitive decline could be reduced through lifestyle changes, including physical exercise, management of cardiovascular risk, diet, and cognitive training. In 2017, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine reported three recommendations for people who want to be proactive about their brain health: brain exercise, physical exercise and hypertension medicine (if blood pressure is too high). In December 2017, the American Academy of Neurology advised physicians that they can recommend cognitive training to patients with Mild Cognitive Impairment.
“When reading the history of science, it often seems that a paradigm shift is driven by a single breakthrough experiment that convinces everyone that a new way of thinking is correct.,” observed Dr. Henry Mahncke, CEO of Posit Science and co-author of the review. “However, as someone who is working daily on the front lines of such a paradigm shift, I can tell you that it is the step-by-step accumulation of evidence from large studies and careful evidence reviews that drives that new paradigm. Regarding brain training, that evidence has come in over the past several years, and as a result the clinical consensus is now catching up.”