Experiments with animals and people have found that as they age the brain slowly degrades. Specifically, the perception of senses, memory and thinking abilities are all affected. However, experiments have also found that the brain retains the ability to learn and to store information throughout life. In response to stimulation, the brain can undergo very subtle changes in shape and size. Researchers who study the brain (neuroscientists) refer to these changes as neuroplasticity.

Researchers in the U.S. with the company Posit Science (San Francisco, California) have developed exercises to stimulate the brain. These exercises specifically challenge the brain, causing it to improve its ability to capture, sort and retrieve information. The approaches used by Posit Science (and other companies that have developed well-designed brain-training exercises) have been tested in clinical trials with mostly HIV-negative people. Overall, these studies have found that significant improvements were detected in the following assessments among people 60 years of age or older:

  • faster processing of information
  • improvement in memory
  • increased ability to focus
  • improved ability to do everyday tasks
  • reduced risk for developing depression
  • reduced risk for cognitive decline

Researchers who study the impact of brain fitness have found that the overall health of participants seemed to improve, resulting in a small decrease (about US$300) in healthcare costs. Furthermore, the benefits of brain training seem to persist for up to five years after the initial sessions.

Different Populations

Until recently, limited studies have been done with HIV-positive people and brain fitness exercises. Such studies have found improvements in HIV-positive people when brain training was done.

Resources

References

  1. Mahncke HW, Connor BB, Appelman J, et al. Memory enhancement in healthy older adults using a brain plasticity-based training program: a randomized, controlled study. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. 2006 Aug 15;103(33):12523-8.
  2. Zelinski EM, Spina LM, Yaffe K, et al. Improvement in memory with plasticity-based adaptive cognitive training: results of the 3-month follow-up. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. 2011 Feb;59(2):258-65.
  3. Wolinsky FD, Mahncke H, Vander Weg MW, et al. Speed of processing training protects self-rated health in older adults: enduring effects observed in the multi-site ACTIVE randomized controlled trial. International Psychogeriatrics. 2010 May;22(3):470-8.
  4. Wolinsky FD, Unverzagt FW, Smith DM, et al. The ACTIVE cognitive training trial and health-related quality of life: protection that lasts for five years. The Journals of Gerontology. Series A, Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences. 2006 Dec;61(12):1324-9.
  5. Nahum M, Lee H, Merzenich MM. Principles of neuroplasticity-based rehabilitation. Progress in Brain Research. 2013;207:141-71.