NIH Research Matters (January 27, 2014): Cognitive Training Shows Staying Power

Publication Date: 
Mon, 01/27/2014

Ten years after a training program was completed, certain cognitive abilities were still improved in older adults, according to a new report. The findings suggest that cognitive interventions could help older people remain independent for longer.

To test whether training could improve the cognitive abilities of older adults, healthy seniors were recruited from 6 cities between March 1998 and October 1999. The participants averaged 74 years of age and 14 years of education at the beginning of the study; 76% were female, 74% were white, and 26% were African-American.

More than 2,800 volunteers were divided into 3 training groups—memory, reasoning, and speed-of-processing—and a control group. The training groups participated in ten 60- to 70-minute sessions over 5 to 6 weeks. Some were randomly selected for later booster sessions. The researchers measured the effects of training on the specific ability targeted immediately following the sessions and at 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10 years after the training.

To see whether training had an effect on everyday living, the team assessed the participants’ time and efficiency in performing certain daily activities. They also asked participants to report on their ability to carry out numerous daily tasks, including meal preparation, housework, finances, shopping, and bathing.

The latest, 10-year follow-up included 44% of the original sample. The study was funded by NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) and National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR). It appeared in the January 2014 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.