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Putting brain training to the test

Friday, 17 February 2017


Some brain training programs can help slow cognitive decline that may lead to dementia, a new review of research into commercially available products has found.

Researchers from Edith Cowan University examined 26 peer-reviewed studies examining the effectiveness of seven brain training programs for people aged over 50.

Lead researcher Professor Ralph Martins from the School of Medical and Health Sciences said the review was conducted to help give clinicians guidance when advising their patients.

“We found that the current evidence indicates that at least some of the commercially available brain training programs can assist in promoting healthy brain aging,” he said.

Rating brain training programs

The researchers examined the scientific claims made by 18 companies that produce brain training programs, which are commonly available for personal computers or as apps.

They found that 11 of those companies had no clinical trials or empirical evidence indicating they were effective.

They classified the products of the remaining seven companies into three categories based on the strength of the evidence of their effectiveness.

To be classified as Level 1 a program was required to have at least two well-designed randomised controlled trials, one of which had to be of high quality.

Level 2 required only one high-quality randomised controlled trial, while Level 3 required only one moderate/poorly designed randomised controlled trial.

The brain training programs BrainHQ and Cognifit met the criteria for Level 1.

Cogmed, BrainAge 2 and My Brain Trainer were classified in Level 2 and Dakim and Lumosity were in Level 3.

Brain training benefits

“The publication of high quality studies of commercially available programs has really accelerated over the past five years,” Professor Martins said.

“The evidence now supports the notion that the human brain is plastic in later life and can benefit from properly designed brain training programs.”

The review was recently published in Neuropsychology Review.


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