Australian researchers have found that computer-based brain training can improve memory and mood in older adults with mild cognitive impairment, although the training is not effective in those who have already been diagnosed with dementia.
For the study a team from the University of Sydney reviewed research spanning more than 20 years, looking at 17 randomized clinical trials that included nearly 700 participants.
The researchers then studied the results using a mathematical approach called meta-analysis, widely recognized as the highest level of medical evidence.
The results showed that brain training could lead to improvements in cognition, memory, learning and attention, as well as psychosocial functioning, including mood and self-perceived quality of life, in people with mild cognitive impairment.
However when the team looked at data from 12 studies on the effect of brain training in people who already had dementia, the same positive results were not found.
Lead author Dr Amit Lampit from the School of Psychology believes that the results show that brain training could be an important and effective way to help prevent dementia, commenting that, "Our research shows that brain training can maintain or even improve cognitive skills among older people at very high risk of cognitive decline — and it's an inexpensive and safe treatment."
Those with mild cognitive impairment experience a decline in memory in addition to other cognitive skills, with the condition also one of the strongest risk factors for dementia.
Sufferers have a one-in-10 risk of developing dementia within a year, and this risk is even higher in those with depression.
Brain training can be used to help treat mild cognitive impairment by improving memory and thinking skills through the use of computer-based exercises which challenge the brain and are designed to look and feel like video games. The results can be found published online in the American Journal of Psychiatry.