UCLA researchers found that older adults who regularly used a brain fitness program played on a computer demonstrated significantly improved memory and language skills. The study’s findings add to the field exploring whether such brain fitness tools may help improve language and memory and may ultimately help protect individuals from the cognitive decline associated with aging and Alzheimer’s disease.
The team studied 59 participants with an average age of 84, recruited from local retirement communities in Southern California. The volunteers were split into two groups: the first group used a brain fitness program for an average of 73.5 (20 minute) sessions across a six-month period, while a second group played it less than 45 times during the same period. Researchers found that the first group demonstrated significantly higher improvement in memory and language skills, compared to the second group.
Age-related memory decline affects approximately 40 percent of older adults and is characterized by self-perception of memory loss and decline in memory performance. Previous studies have shown that engaging in mental activities can help improve memory, but little research has been done to determine whether the numerous brain fitness games and memory training programs on the market are effective in improving memory. This is one of the first studies to assess the cognitive effects of a computerized memory training program.
The study also received a Blue Ribbon Award from the American Psychological Association during the organization’s annual convention held this week. The Blue Ribbon Awards are based on independent, blind review and scored on methodological rigor, merit, and potential impact on the science and practice of clinical neuropsychology.
The study authors were Dr. Karen Miller, associate clinical professor, Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and Dr. Gary Small, professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences at the Semel Institute.
Material adapted from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Health Sciences.