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The Brain Fitness Program

February 11, 2009 Written by JP       [Font too small?]

The concept that aging inevitably brings about negative changes in our bodies and minds is widespread. Many people simply accept the “fact” that the physical body will weaken, eyesight will become blurry and the brain will no longer cooperate like it used to. To that I say: fight it! Accept what can’t be changed, but do whatever is possible to improve the things that are pliable. For example, we can and should adopt a philosophy that an aging brain can learn new tricks.

Sharpen Memory by Embracing Technology

A very hopeful study will be published in the April edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. In this study, researchers from multiple universities enrolled almost 500 patients in an 8 week long experiment. The goal of the experiment was to determine if a commercially available computer program could help sharpen the mental skills of healthy senior citizens (with ages ranging from 65-93).

Computer Aided Brain Fitness

In the study, half of the participants used a specific computer program called the Brain Fitness Program. The other half of the volunteers watched educational DVDs and took tests on the material afterward. The idea was to have both groups engaged in activities that required focus and memory recall.

The Brain Fitness Program involved a series of six audio exercises performed on a computer. These exercises were intended to help identify “fine distinctions in sound, and do it in a way that keeps the user engaged”. My interpretation is that focused attention to detail is the primary objective of these audio assignments. Those engaging in the Brain Fitness Program spent a total of 40 hours, spread out over the 8 week trial, practicing these exercises.

By the study’s end, certain changes in cognitive function were noted. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • Those using the computer program were able to process information twice as fast as the control group. On average, there was a 131% improvement in response time.
  • 88% of these same individuals reached “processing speeds typical of people under the age of 40″.
  • 77% of Brain Fitness Program volunteers reported a detectable improvement in their everyday memory skills and focus. They also noted feelings of greater confidence and independence.
  • Based on the totality of the evidence, the researchers proclaimed that those on the Brain Fitness Program exhibited the mental function of people 10 years their junior.
  • The control group that watched the educational DVDs did not show any significant improvement in brain performance.

In my opinion, the most interesting finding is that practicing audio exercises resulted in improvements that weren’t involved in the training. The audio exercises had no specific relation to the everyday, practical applications of memory or attention – like recalling a neighbor’s name or being able to focus in a crowded store. Still, the effect of these audio exercises displayed themselves in real life circumstances. This is ultimately what we want: real life results.

Brain Candy

I’ve been noticing a trend over the past several years that shows a consistent association between poor blood sugar control and poor brain function. This pattern continues in this month’s issue of the journal Diabetes Care.

Brain CandyIn the study presented, almost 3,000 type-2 diabetics were asked to participate in four cognitive tests. The researchers also drew their blood and analyzed it for the level of A1C. The A1C test measures long term (2-4 months) blood sugar control.

The results of the test were unmistakable. Higher A1C scores were associated with lower scores in all four of the brain function tests. The researchers commented that, “This study adds to the growing evidence that poorer blood glucose control is strongly associated with poorer memory function and that these associations can be detected well before a person develops severe memory loss.”

So lets all try to look at the upside of aging. We can still play computer games. In fact, they’re good for us! But we should probably avoid eating too much candy. Mom was right about that one.

Note: Please check out the “Comments & Updates” section of this blog – at the bottom of the page. You can find the latest research about this topic there!

Be well!

JP

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Posted in Alternative Therapies, Diabetes, Memory

One Comment to “The Brain Fitness Program”

  1. JP Says:

    Updated 06/26/16:

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4909909/

    Mediators Inflamm. 2016;2016:5912146.

    Folic Acid Supplementation Mitigates Alzheimer’s Disease by Reducing Inflammation: A Randomized Controlled Trial.

    Background/Aims. Low serum folate levels can alter inflammatory reactions. Both phenomena have been linked to Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but the effect of folic acid on AD itself is unclear. We quantified folate supplementation’s effect on inflammation and cognitive function in patients with AD over the course of 6 months.

    Methods. Patients newly diagnosed with AD (age > 60 years; n = 121; mild to severe; international criteria) and being treated with donepezil were randomly assigned into two groups with (intervention group) or without (control group) supplemental treatment with folic acid (1.25 mg/d) for 6 months. The Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) was administered to all patients at baseline and follow-up, and blood samples were taken before and after treatment. We quantified serum folate, amyloid beta (Aβ), interleukin-6 (IL-6), tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα), plasma homocysteine (Hcy), S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), S-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH), and the mRNA levels of presenilin (PS), IL-6, and TNFα in leukocytes. Data were analyzed using a repeated-measures mixed model.

    Results. The mean MMSE was slightly increased in the intervention group compared to that in the control group (P < 0.05). Posttreatment, plasma SAM and SAM/SAH levels were significantly higher (P < 0.05), while Aβ 40, PS1-mRNA, and TNFα-mRNA levels were lower in the intervention group than in the control group (P < 0.05). The Aβ 42/Aβ 40 ratio was also higher in the intervention group (P < 0.05).

    Conclusions. Folic acid is beneficial in patients with AD. Inflammation may play an important role in the interaction between folic acid and AD.

    Be well!

    JP

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