Results from a ten year study have hinted that a type of brain training designed to train people’s thinking speed could reduce dementia risk. The study, known as the ACTIVE study, recruited 2,802 older adults without dementia. The participants undertook one of three programmes designed to train their memory, reasoning or attention speed, or were included in a no-contact ‘control’ group.
The training was first delivered in ten sessions over six weeks, with some people receiving ‘booster’ sessions. The participants were followed up at intervals over ten years.
The researchers found that those who had done the speed training had a 29% lower risk of dementia compared to controls after the ten year follow up. There was no benefit seen in the reasoning or memory training groups.
However, as dementia diagnosis was not performed to clinical standards, there are some limitations to this study that need to be taken into account.
Dr Doug Brown, Director of Research at Alzheimer’s Society, said:
“We expect over a million people across the UK to be living with dementia by 2021, therefore it’s vital that we see approaches, like brain training, being investigated that could potentially help reduce the risk of developing dementia.
“This study hints that a particular type of brain training may help people to ward off dementia, but due to limitations of the research, we can’t confidently conclude this.
“As computerised brain training has the potential to help a lot of people in a really cost-effective way, this area of research should remain a high priority. There are currently a number of studies looking at the effect of computer brain training on dementia, including a large UK study funded by Alzheimer’s Society. Combining these results with those from other studies should help us to have a clearer picture.
“Overall, the best way to reduce your risk is to take regular exercise, eat a healthy diet and avoid smoking.”