Brain Exercises Show Promise in the Fight Against Alzheimer’s

Scott Robarge is the head of Another8, a staffing firm in the San Francisco Bay area that works with high-growth organizations to establish recruitment as an integral part of a firm’s regular operations. He helps clients make staff acquisition part of their strategic planning. When he is not attending to his professional responsibilities, Scott Robarge supports the work of the Alzheimer’s Association.

There is no cure for Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), the most common form of dementia in people older than 65, and its cause is unknown. It is a progressive degenerative disease that attacks the brain. Diagnoses are based on symptoms and tests of thinking abilities and behavior, and brain scans when possible, but definitive diagnoses require an examination of brain tissue. Short-term memory loss is an early symptom, and as the disease progresses, others appear, including irritability, aggression, mood swings, difficulties with language, confusion, and long-term memory loss. The disease progresses differently with each person, making it difficult to predict a person’s future behavior or needs. The average life expectancy of persons with AD is about 8 years after their symptoms become apparent to those around them; very few live more than 15 years after diagnosis.

While there is no cure, and no treatment stops AD’s progression, research suggests that people with mild cognitive impairment, one of the symptoms associated with AD, can literally exercise their brains to improve cognitive performance. One such study in Australia tested the popular online brain exercise program Lumosity. In an independent measure of sustained attention, the cognitive performance of subjects from the Lumosity group improved, while that of those in the control group declined. The difference in performance was statistically significant.

There are currently 43 projects employing Lumosity’s tools and, in some cases, limited access to the firm’s database of cognitive game performance. Known collectively as the Human Cognition Project, these collaborations were initiated by Lumosity to promote greater understanding of the effect of cognition training on the brain and how it might affect several conditions, including post-traumatic stress disorder and AD.

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