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The Benefits of a One-Time Cognitive Training Program Do Last but Wane Over Time

Posted Mar 15 2011 11:26am

Do you remember the IMPACT study published in 2009? It was a randomized clinical trial with healthy older adults that compared a computer-based cognitive program that trains audi­tory pro­cess­ing (Brain Fitness Program, Posit Science) with educational video programs (control group). People who used the program improved in the trained tasks, which was not that surprising, but there was also a clear ben­e­fit in audi­tory mem­ory, which wasn’t directly trained.

A 2011 paper reports the 3-month follow-up results of the IMPACT study. The 487 participants in the original study were 65 and older. Training was 1 hour a day, 4 to 5 days a week, for a total of 40 hours in 8 to 10 weeks. There was no contact with the researchers between the initial training study and the follow-up study.

The results showed that 3 months after the initial training most of the improvement observed in the training group was still present, although not as strongly. In other words, without reinforcement, the cognitive training effect was maintained but waned over time.

So what’s the take-home message? Let’s look at physical fitness. We do not expect 2 months of intense abdominal training to last a lifetime but instead regularly go to the gym. The same is true with brain fitness. It looks like you cannot train your brain for a few months and then stop and expect the benefits to last forever. Regular training is needed.

Related post: Cognitive Training can Boost Sense of Control

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