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Can Speed Training Help Delay the Onset of Alzheimer’s?

  • March 09, 2017

Just last year, science seemed to debunk the common conception that “brain games” and apps could help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. 

But new research announced at the Alzheimer’s Association annual meeting in Toronto seems to point to a very specific type of “brain training” that may actually help delay the onset of Alzheimer’s. 

The Research

It all began nearly 10 years ago when researchers recruited nearly 3,000 participants and divided them into four groups for a study called Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE). 

The first group, the control, received no brain training. The second and third groups received 10 hours of classroom instruction with tips on how to improve memory and reasoning. A fourth group performed a special kind of brain-training: Speed-of-processing training. 

Backed by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Nursing Research, the study has been covered extensively in peer-reviewed journals. And the findings surprised many people. 

The Results

The study tracked the participants (all but 47 of them) for the next decade. As reported in The New Yorker, researchers found

•    Fourteen percent of those who received no training or attended the memory classes were diagnosed with dementia in their mid-80s.
•    Those who received speed-of-processing training had a dementia rate of 12.1 percent.
•    Those who received four-hour “booster” sessions for speed-of-processing training had an 8.2 percent occurrence rate of dementia. 

In all, researchers calculated that older adults who received speed-of-processing training with booster sessions were 48 percent less likely to develop dementia within 10 years than those in the control group. 

What Is Speed-of-Processing Training?

So what is speed-of-processing training? And can it help you or an older adult in your life? 


Speed-of-processing is a very specific type of computer game. The participant must identify and describe multiple objects that flash on the screen very quickly. Levels get subsequently harder and the speed with which objects disappear gets faster as the game progresses. 

Looking Forward

“The speed-of-processing results are very encouraging,” says Jonathan W. King, Ph.D., program director for cognitive aging in the Division of Behavioral and Social Research at NIA and co-author of the ACTIVE study, in an article published by the National Institute of Aging. 

But it’s important to note that these findings are only preliminary and more research should be done. It also remains to be seen whether or not the increase in cognitive function will allow older adults to live independently longer. Speed-of-processing training could help older adults with specific tasks such as driving, which requires the ability to assess a situation and react quickly.

Memory Care You Can Trust

As researchers work hard to discover new ways to prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease, the staff at Five Star Senior Living works to provide a warm and welcoming atmosphere and the best treatment available for seniors with Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Schedule a tour of a memory care community near you today



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