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computer-games-dementia Trial after trial, researchers have failed to find a cure for Alzheimer’s disease. However, despite the lack of a cure, there is hope. Many research studies and clinical trials are providing information that will likely lead to a cure one day – and maybe it will come soon. But for now, doctors, patients, and families touched by Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia are trying different treatments to find the one that seems to work best for each patient, and researchers are busy seeking better treatments and a cure. One study presented in Toronto at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in 2016 found some promising information. The team analyzed data provided by a randomized controlled study, did their own research about that data, and found some interesting facts. Their research showed that, at least in the volunteers they studied, brain training using computer games seemed to reduce the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by nearly 50 percent. The research team was led by Jerry Edwards, associate professor at the University of South Florida School of Aging Studies. They used data from a former study called Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) to find out whether cognitive training could delay the onset of cognitive decline so often found in Alzheimer’s disease. What their research showed is that the ACTIVE study group that completed 10 to 14 hours (in total over the 10-year study period) of computer games called speed-of-processing games were 48 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia over the course of the study when compared to those who didn’t receive any brain training. The participants who played the games did so for 10 hours during the first year of the study, and then they were selected randomly to play up to four additional hours of “booster sessions” throughout the remaining years of the study. The ACTIVE study included 2800 people that were, on average, 74 years old at the beginning of the study. They were broken up into four groups – the speed-of-processing group we just mentioned, a group that took memory classes, a group that took reasoning classes, and the control group that didn’t do anything to boost memory of cognitive ability. The researchers from Florida led by Edwards did not perform the research themselves but instead analyzed the data found in the ACTIVE study results. So, it’s too early to jump to the conclusion that playing speed-of-processing games is a great way to delay or even prevent Alzheimer’s. After all, the ACTIVE study wasn’t performed to gather Alzheimer’s disease risk. However, the results are promising. For example, the ACTIVE results did show that some types of cognitive training can help older adults with basic life tasks, like driving and balancing a checkbook. And while it’s way too early to say that this type of brain training can stave off cognitive decline, and there are many other possible explanations for the results found in this study, there don’t seem to be any negative effects to taking a holistic approach to promote long-term brain health including diet, exercise, social engagement, and other lifestyle interventions. No matter where you are on the spectrum of memory health, it’s always a good idea to stimulate and strengthen your brain through mind and body exercises. It can be a difficult task to recognize the early signs of dementia and know the difference between normal aging and dementia, but armed with comprehensive, accurate information, a strong support system, and an effective treatment plan, you and your loved ones will be more likely to successfully tackle whatever comes your way.
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