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Medicine

Can Computerized Brain Training Prevent Dementia? (newyorker.com) 49

"Researchers believe they have found a link between speed-of-processing training and a reduction in cognitive decline among the elderly," reports the New Yorker. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes an article about how this new long-term study actually contradicts much of the previous science. In October of 2014 a group of more than seventy academics published what they called a consensus statement, asserting that playing brain games had been shown to improve little more than the ability to play brain games... no brain game, nor any drug, dietary supplement, or lifestyle intervention, had ever been shown in a large, randomized trial to prevent dementia...until today, when surprising new results were announced at the Alzheimer's Association annual meeting, in Toronto.
Nearly 3,000 participants with an average age of 73.6 participated in the study, with some receiving "speed of processing" training -- and some later receiving four hours of additional training. "The researchers calculated those who completed at least some of these booster sessions were 48% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia after ten years than their peers in the control group." Signatories of the 2014 consensus statement panning brain games are now calling these new results "remarkable" and "spectacular".
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Can Computerized Brain Training Prevent Dementia?

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  • It's one study... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 24, 2016 @11:40PM (#52573147)

    It's one study. Wait for independent duplication before calling it remarkable. It could still be proven to be as much of a hoax as vaccines causing autism, global warming, or evolution. Exercise caution in believing a single study.

    • Re:It's one study... (Score:4, Informative)

      by skids ( 119237 ) on Sunday July 24, 2016 @11:55PM (#52573179) Homepage

      Wait for independent duplication

      Well, the study took 10 years, so hopefully there are others going on in parallel. Because that's some pretty slow progress on a real bane of a problem.

      • Wait for independent duplication

        Well, the study took 10 years, so hopefully there are others going on in parallel. Because that's some pretty slow progress on a real bane of a problem.

        What is fascinating is that this might now extend the "All of your problems are your own fault" crowds finger pointing to the final frontier - dementia.

        It even seems like a plausible premise, that using the mind keeps it healthy, but it could very well mimic a slow cognitive decline. If a person disengages from intellectual activity, it might just be that they were already naturally declining anyhow.

        anyhow, if it is true, I shouldn't have much problem - since retirement I've taken on many new mental e

    • In real life, you might want to exercise caution in believing in the outcome, but if you're worried about dementia, seems to me practicing brain games miy help and is at worst a waste of time, and probably less of a waste than watching television or surfing uToob. It's not gonna hurt (unlike some of the restrictive diets which cause you to lose weight thru bad nutrition).
  • There was no real time measurement to prove or disprove that this works. They favorably calculated the possibility that in ten years some people would do better with their computerized brain training. This seems like a sham to me. I want to see results that verify, not predict, improvement.
    • by FranklinWebber ( 1307427 ) * <franklin@eutaxy.net> on Monday July 25, 2016 @12:13AM (#52573217) Homepage

      No, they performed a measurement. FTA:

      "Ten years after ACTIVE began, ... more than three hundred met the criteria for dementia, but their odds varied significantly based on which group they had been assigned to. Among those who had been given no training whatsoever, fourteen per cent met the criteria for dementia. ... The comparable rate of dementia for the speed-of-processing group was slightly lower, at 12.1 per cent. And among those who had been invited to receive the additional training, 8.2 per cent developed dementia."

      • by Anonymous Coward

        This is a well-known con. They gave a a group the initial "training", then monitored them and gave those with the least signs of dementia the "additional training", thus invalidating the study from a factual basis.

    • They tracked the participants for 10 years; how much more time do you want? Every study can have some criticism poked at it but number of subjects and time spent don't look like good candidates to call this one on.

  • by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Monday July 25, 2016 @01:14AM (#52573327)
    I know this is slashdot, but the computers here are just a delivery system not the content.
    Dust off all those Martin Gardner puzzles in print or PDF, plus various other puzzles and you've got the same thing whether it is on a monitor, tablet or paper.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    Since Alzheimer apparently already sets in at the age of three [slashdot.org], the answer would be "no".

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      That's one particular gene that is associated with Alzheimer's. There is no "Alzheimer's" gene, despite what the summary says. Even if there were, it doesn't mean you can't do anything to delay it. You could make an argument that the disease called death starts having an effect at the age of zero, but you should still buckle up and not smoke.

  • I worked in a related field, and my gut feeling says no. How much arithmetic can you teach someone in a few hours of training? How much of a foreign language? Almost nothing, and it will be forgotten in a matter of months. So it's very unlikely that a few hours of training is enough to dramatically reduce dementia or whatever mental health problem.

    • Ffs. I hope your related field is not very related.
      Do you really think that is a valid comparison? Really? Teaching versus dementia avoidance?

      Perhaps you think moderate exercise is not good for general health because 10 active minutes a day can't teach you to run a marathon?

      And.. I knew the bar to pepper in medical research had got quite low.. But... Gut feeling? That's your standard to rebut ten years of research? You should work in psychology, sociology or economics.. You will fit right in.

      Leave the rest

      • by tgv ( 254536 )

        > Teaching versus dementia avoidance?

        I'd have to agree it's probably harder to control the processes that grow dementia.

        But first, they would have to have a damn good explanation why previous training methods did not improve speed of execution.

        > Leave the rest of the grown-ups to do some real work.

        Well, the grown-ups in psychology and psychiatry have fucked up quite a bit, haven't they? There's no base for trust in spectacular results. That requires really solid evidence and either replication or a mo

    • I'll give you a hint: remembering what happened in the study has as much to do with the benefit as remembering running has to do with the benefits of running. Exercise benefits you when you do it, not when you remember it.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    I watched this horrible disease reduce two of the most powerful men in my life (direct relatives) to living corpses that could not even remember their own names. Truly, I hope no one ever has to face the horror of this disease either in themselves or someone they know.

    What is even more saddening is the amount of ignorance that surrounds this disease. I had a friend whom, upon finding out that I had relatives who had Alzheimer's, say he was glad that he had no family history of the illness, because he would

    • Dementia is a category of symptoms, not a disease. This story is not about Alzheimer's. I am astounded at the aliteracy.

  • "Of course, Edwards’s findings may not stand up to peer review" This study has not even been through peer review and therefore is not complete. This leaves me to wonder why the results have been published so early, smells fishy to me.
  • Even better, implants that will deliver ads straight to the patient's brain coupled with a re-defintion of dementia will lead to 100% reliable results.

    Now if you'll excuse me I have to start my zombie walk, mumbling: "I will buy the latest Taylor Swift album, I will buy ..."

  • Computerized brain training one of the sources of dementia. Proof? It causes otherwise normal people to hand over money for an app of magic beans rather than simply going to the library and reading some science books...for free.

  • those who completed at least some of these booster sessions were 48% less likely to be diagnosed with dementia

    The other 52% simply forgot about the booster sessions.

  • It's just as likely (if not more likely) that cognitive decline reduces training. What were these people thinking? Oh,..., wait,...
  • There's a long list of activities that have been shown to slow or mask cognitive decline in the elderly, e.g. reading, being bilingual, learning a second/foreign language, and physical exercise but most of all, social engagement. There have been a number of studies that have shown remarkable improvements in not only cognitive function but also quality of life in retirement homes where they've enacted programmes where small children visit. The residents talk to the children, read them stories, and various ot

  • I suspect that belief that computerized brain training can prevent dementia is probably a symptom of early dementia.

Sigmund Freud is alleged to have said that in the last analysis the entire field of psychology may reduce to biological electrochemistry.

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