A new study released this week gives renewed hope for treating dementia. Overall, the study, funded by the National Institute on Aging, found that older adults who completed exercises to improve the speed at which they processed visual information could cut by nearly half their likelihood of dementia over a 10-year period.

The study compared the effects of three types of brain training in a group of 2,802 cognitively healthy seniors.

The L.A. Times wrote about the study’s findings, saying the group that was given speed-based computerized training showed the most progress.

The group received computerized training designed to increase the speed at which the brain processes cues in a person’s field of vision.

Overall, speed of visual processing declines with age. This trend some neuroscientists attribute to the increasing “noise” in electrical communications between cells and among regions in the brain.

About 76 million baby boomers reach the age of maximum vulnerability to Alzheimer’s disease.

Overall, no treatment exists that alters or slows the progression of Alzheimer’s today. However, the new research suggests that “even years after administration, an inexpensive intervention without unwanted side effects might forestall dementia symptoms”.

Over the study’s 10-year follow-up, 14% of participants in the control group suffered significant cognitive decline or dementia. Compared to 11.4% in the memory-strategies training group, 11.7% in the reasoning-strategies training group, and 10.5% in the speed-of-processing group. Cognitive decline or dementia was less among those in the speed-of-processing group.

Statistically, the trial’s four groups experienced sizable differences in cognitive aging.

The cumulative risk of developing dementia over 10 years ranked 33% lower than for participants who got no training at all. The trial’s results are promising because the exercise that worked best in the study is available as the “Double Decision” game.

See what else the L.A. Times said about the study here.

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