(UPDATE: The contact number in the original article was wrong. It has since been corrected.)
From the University of South Florida:
If physical exercise can strengthen muscles, can mental exercise strengthen brains? And if so, for how long?
It appears the answer is, yes, and for several years, according to University of South Florida scientists. Older adults who are interested in trying it out for themselves can take part in a study now being conducted at USF’s School of Aging Studies in the College of Behavioral and Community Sciences.
A team of researchers is investigating treatments to ward off the cognitive declines associated with what is considered normal aging and even Alzheimer’s disease. Prevention or delaying the onset of either or both are the goals of having elderly people work out with a computerized brain fitness program designed to improve their cognitive skills.
The workout equipment consists of a computer station – and that’s it. Research assistants provide one brief training session and the participants identify a variety of visual and auditory targets designed to engage their mental faculties.
“Experience is not necessary and it’s pretty easy to use,” according to Jerri Edwards, an associate professor in the School of Aging Studies in the USF College of Behavioral and Community Sciences. She’s the principal investigator working in collaboration with fellow Associate Professor Ross Andel and ProfessorJennifer J. Lister, studying the effects of giving the brain regular exercise.
Edwards has more than 12 years of experience designing and executing large-scale NIH-funded clinical trials in cognitive aging involving more than a thousand older adult subjects and found promising evidence that cognitive training improves everyday function and prolongs mobility.
“We’re examining processing speed or mental quickness, to see how the training helps to improve the brain’s reaction time. With training our study participants get better and better at paying close attention to what they see and hear,” she said.
Edwards went on to explain, “Mild cognitive impairment may be a transitional phase, one that we can work with. Recent study findings published in Current Alzheimer Research show that 10 sessions of the brain fitness program we’re using improves cognitive abilities with effects lasting up to five years. The program was successful among a wide range of persons with mild cognitive impairment (also known as isolated memory impairment or incipient dementia) including those with and without memory problems."
According to Edwards, research has found that this program is also effective for older adults who do not have mild cognitive impairment.
The brain fitness program is being offered to older adults at the USF Cognitive Aging Lab on the Tampa campus through its research program and it is free of charge. Adults age 60 or above who are interested in participating should contact the lab at 813-974-6703 or email@example.com.