Cognitive training can benefit seniors up to a decade after they’ve received the training, a study reported in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society has found. The study was headed by George Rebok, Ph.D., a professor at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The study cohort included approximately 2,800 individuals with an average age of 74 at the start of the study. Half of the subjects were randomized to a training group and the other half to a control group. All subjects were community-dwelling adults who did not show signs of significant cognitive decline. The training group received training sessions in reasoning, information-processing speed, and memory—domains that show declines with aging. The training produced significant improvements in all three cognitive areas. Ten years later, most of the cognitively trained subjects were still at or above their baseline level in reasoning and speed processing; this was not the case for the controls, in whom deterioration of these cognitive functions was seen at the 10-year follow-up. However, the memory improvements that the training group had initially made were not sustained a decade later.
“One of the most common questions asked by our older patients is, ‘What can I do to prevent memory loss?’ ” Art Walaszek, M.D., an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin and a geriatric psychiatrist, noted in an interview with Psychiatric News. “This study, impressive for its large sample size and long-term follow-up, helps answer this question…. It appears that cognitive training may help older adults with their reasoning skills, processing speed, and activities of daily living, but not with memory. This raises the intriguing possibility that, though memory decline may be difficult to avoid, older adults may be able to develop other cognitive skills in order to maintain their functioning.”