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May 17

Society for Neuroscience 2012 (New Orleans, LA)

Computerized cognitive training leads to working memory and processing speed improvements in older adults

Gigler, K.L., Blomeke, K., Weintraub, S. & Reber, P.J.

Recently there has been significant interest in interventions designed to slow or prevent cognitive decline in older adults. The current study used the Cognifit® online training program in order to explore the potential of computerized cognitive training in a mixed population of both cognitively healthy and impaired older adults. Participants were 11 healthy older adults and 7 individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who were asked to complete 17 sessions of personalized cognitive training administered online. Participants completed a broad assessment of cognitive function across 20 cognitive domains administered by Cognifit® both before and after training. Additionally, a subset of 9 participants (7 healthy, 2 MCI) completed a separate assessment of cognitive function in our laboratory using the Cogstate assessment battery, which includes measures of working memory, long-term memory, executive function and processing speed. The majority of participants adhered to the program, with 15 participants completing the protocol over the course of an average of 10 weeks (10 healthy, 5 MCI). Participants improved significantly on two measures of working memory assessed by Cognifit®, measuring manipulation ability and auditory span, as well as improving on an independent measure of visual memory function. These gains were evident in both healthy and MCI groups. On the Cogstate measures, participants exhibited a trend towards improvement on a working memory measure (1-back) and showed a reliable increase in processing speed across several tasks. General improvement on working memory tasks in both assessment batteries suggest that working memory is a cognitive function amenable to improvement. Processing speed improvements are often found after training on a working memory task, providing further support for this function as a candidate for training. Overall, the data suggest that the implementation of an exclusively online cognitive training protocol is possible with both cognitively healthy and memory-impaired older adults. Such interventions therefore hold promise for researchers interested in improving cognitive processing in an aging population.

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