Specific Brain-Training Exercises Can Make a Difference, Study Concludes

According to research presented by scientists at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association, not all brain-training products get results.

“The mistake some people make is thinking that all brain-training is the same,” said presenter Jerri Edwards, PhD, of the University of South Florida. “Lumping all brain training together is like trying to determine the effectiveness of antibiotics by looking at the universe of all pills, and including sugar pills and dietary supplements in that analysis. You’ll find that some work and some do not. To then conclude that brain-training does not work — or is not yet proven — is based on flawed analysis.”

Edwards decided to do the needed analysis. She examined the efficacy of a particular type of brain-training exercise called speed of processing training, also called “Useful field of view (UFOV) training.

The researchers systematically looked at and reviewed 50 peer-reviewed research papers which examined UFOV.

Edwards also released the results from her and her team’s study of Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE.) This study found that the risks of dementia among older adults was reduced by 48 percent over a ten-year period when the subjects completed at least 11 sessions of this particular brain-training method. That translates to about an 8 percent reduction in the risk of dementia per each “speed of processing” brain-training session completed.

“This highly specific exercise is designed to improve the speed and accuracy of visual attention or someone’s mental quickness,” Edwards said.

Edwards’ conclusion was that speed of processing training results in better reaction time while driving, improved attention, less depression and more feelings of control, more functionality such as health-related quality of life and performance, and reduced health care costs.