So far, research has been mixed on whether brain training programs can improve or slow memory decline. Yet a new study published online Jan. 4, 2018, by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that brain training may help people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), the stage between normal brain aging and dementia.
Researchers recruited 145 adults, average age 72, who were diagnosed with MCI. They were split into three groups. Those in one group did two hours of brain training every week for two months. The training focused on improving memory by learning new strategies to better encode information. For example, they remembered errands by associating tasks with specific locations in their home, a process called method of loci. They also practiced how to better control their attention.
The people in the second group also received two hours of training per week, but were taught how to focus on the positive aspects of their lives, like learning how to cope with stress and frustration. The third group didn’t follow any program.
All the participants were given memory tests at the start of the study. Afterward, the people in the brain training group scored two to four times higher on the tests. Those in the other two groups showed a much smaller improvement.
The brain trainers also maintained their improvement over a six-month period, and the researchers speculated this was because they used their training in their daily lives. More research in this area is needed, but the results suggest there could be benefits from stimulating the brain in certain ways, especially if it’s done on a regular basis.