Cognitive training exercises may be effective at improving or delaying age-related cognitive decline, according to a report from the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM). The report examined a systematic review of randomized controlled trials from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, which showed evidence that cognitive training can slow or delay age-related cognitive decline. One of these studies, known as the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) trial, showed moderately strong improvements to certain cognitive domains, such as memory, speed of information processing, and reasoning (Marshall, 2017).
The ACTIVE trial was run over a ten-year period and included 2,832 participants sixty-five years or older. At the start of the trial, none of the participants had any significant deterioration in cognitive function. Each participant was randomly assigned to a ten-session regimen of cognitive training that focused exclusively on one of three areas: memory, reasoning ability, or speed of information processing. These sessions consisted of both computer-based exercises and group activities. Researchers concluded that there were improvements in the cognitive domain a participant had received training for, but benefits were not seen in the other two cognitive domains that a participant did not get trained on (Marshall, 2017).
Although the ACTIVE trial demonstrated that cognitive training can yield certain benefits to age-related cognitive decline, there hasn’t yet been any firm evidence that this training can alter other types of declines in cognition, such as mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer’s dementia. Additional studies on cognitive training are needed to learn if there are positive developments in these areas.
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Marshall, A. (2017). Which Interventions Can Slow Cognitive Decline or Prevent Dementia? Neurology Reviews,25(10), 9-10.