Memory training not best bet for reducing 'senior moments'

Jan 19, 2011 By Becky Ham

Trying to stave off senior moments with memory drills and similar brain-boosting activities? A new evidence review suggests that these specific training regimes are not any better than simple conversations at improving memory in older adults.

Some studies show that healthy , and those with mild cognitive impairment, do remember words better after some . However, seniors with memory training do not improve their memory any more than do seniors who participate in a discussion about art, for instance, instead of drilling with a list of words.

“Based on published studies, it seems that alternative interventions do just as well as cognitive interventions,” said Mike Martin, a psychologist at the University of Zurich and review co-author.

The findings do “not mean that longer, more intense or different interventions might not be effective,” said Martin, “but that those which have been reported thus far have only limited effect.”

The review appears in the latest issue of The Cochrane Library, a publication of the Cochrane Collaboration, an international organization that evaluates medical research. Systematic reviews draw evidence-based conclusions about medical practice after considering both the content and quality of existing medical trials on a topic.

“Most people, although not all, experience a cognitive decline in old age,” Martin said. The decline for adults over age 60 can include memory loss and inability to plan, pay close attention or perform tasks as quickly as before.

The normal rate of decline seems to accelerate in some people, leading to a condition called that some researchers see as a risk factor for developing dementia later in life.

Although several studies have suggested that brain-training exercises could delay or reverse signs of cognitive decline, the studies and the types of training “vary considerably,” Martin said.

“We need...better coordinated studies to ultimately determine if and which types of training may prevent cognitive decline in old age,” he said.

Other researchers are exploring another type of training to keep the fit: physical activity, from aerobics to balance exercises. For instance, in small studies led by Teresa Liu-Ambrose, Ph.D., of the University of British Columbia, resistance training for older women was associated with improved mental focus. “This has important clinical implications because is a major health problem that currently lacks a clearly effective pharmaceutical therapy,” Liu-Ambrose said.

The Cochrane researchers reviewed the evidence for cognitive training from 36 studies, conducted between 1970 and 2007, which included 2229 patients. Most of the studies involved group sessions, where a trainer or tutor offered the cognition exercises. The total time in training sessions varied across from six to 135 hours, with the training sessions carried out over periods ranging from one day to two years.

Explore further: Oil-swishing craze: Snake oil or all-purpose remedy?

More information: Martin M et al. Cognition-based interventions for healthy older people and people with mild cognitive impairment. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2011, Issue 1.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Weight training improves cognitive function in seniors

Jan 25, 2010

Weight-bearing exercises may help minimize cognitive decline and impaired mobility in seniors, according to a new study conducted by the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of ...

Evidence of ginseng-boosted brain power is weak

Dec 08, 2010

Many people believe that the popular herb ginseng can improve thinking ability and prevent or even treat dementia. However, a comprehensive review of research failed to find convincing evidence of these benefits.

Telehealth keeps asthmatics out of hospitals

Oct 06, 2010

Health care delivered via telephone or Internet might not improve the quality of life for people with mild asthma, but it could keep those with severe asthma out of the hospital, a new evidence review finds.

'White-noise' therapy not enough to curb tinnitus

Dec 10, 2010

Tinnitus — what many think of as “ringing in the ears” — is the perception of sound without any real acoustic stimulation. Sound masking therapy, a common component of tinnitus treatment, ...

Recommended for you

Suddenly health insurance is not for sale

Apr 18, 2014

(HealthDay)— Darlene Tucker, an independent insurance broker in Scotts Hill, Tenn., says health insurers in her area aren't selling policies year-round anymore.

Study: Half of jailed NYC youths have brain injury (Update)

Apr 18, 2014

About half of all 16- to 18-year-olds coming into New York City's jails say they had a traumatic brain injury before being incarcerated, most caused by assaults, according to a new study that's the latest in a growing body ...

Autonomy and relationships among 'good life' goals

Apr 18, 2014

Young adults with Down syndrome have a strong desire to be self-sufficient by living independently and having a job, according to a study into the meaning of wellbeing among young people affected by the disorder.

User comments : 0

More news stories

Filipino tests negative for Middle East virus

A Filipino nurse who tested positive for the Middle East virus has been found free of infection in a subsequent examination after he returned home, Philippine health officials said Saturday.

Study says we're over the hill at 24

(Medical Xpress)—It's a hard pill to swallow, but if you're over 24 years of age you've already reached your peak in terms of your cognitive motor performance, according to a new Simon Fraser University study.

NASA's space station Robonaut finally getting legs

Robonaut, the first out-of-this-world humanoid, is finally getting its space legs. For three years, Robonaut has had to manage from the waist up. This new pair of legs means the experimental robot—now stuck ...

Ex-Apple chief plans mobile phone for India

Former Apple chief executive John Sculley, whose marketing skills helped bring the personal computer to desktops worldwide, says he plans to launch a mobile phone in India to exploit its still largely untapped ...

Egypt archaeologists find ancient writer's tomb

Egypt's minister of antiquities says a team of Spanish archaeologists has discovered two tombs in the southern part of the country, one of them belonging to a writer and containing a trove of artifacts including reed pens ...

Airbnb rental site raises $450 mn

Online lodging listings website Airbnb inked a $450 million funding deal with investors led by TPG, a source close to the matter said Friday.