A newly published study of older adults residing in assisted living and independent living communities shows significant improvement in brain processing speed among those who used a particular brain exercise. The brain exercise that drove the improvement is found exclusively in the BrainHQ web and mobile apps from Posit Science.
The study, led by researchers from the University of Iowa, enrolled 351 older adults (aged 55-102; average age 81) across 31 senior communities, and was just published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
Researchers randomized participants into two groups: (1) an intervention group assigned the speed of processing exercise Double Decision in BrainHQ, and (2) an active control group assigned computerized crossword puzzles. Participants were asked to train for 10 hours over a six-week period at the beginning of the study and for 4 additional hours at month 5 and at month 11.
All participants were measured at the beginning of the study, and at month 6 and month 12, using the Useful Field of View (UFOV®) Assessment, a well-documented standard measure of brain processing speed.
Speed of processing is an elemental cognitive ability, indicating ability to attend as information comes in at varying speeds. It’s a key building block for higher cognitive abilities, such as memory and decision-making. Brain speed slowing typically begins in one’s late 20s and increases as you age. Slower brain speed is a key causal factor in the decline of other cognitive abilities and of abilities to operate in the world.
In prior studies of older adults, the speed of processing training found in BrainHQ has been shown to improve processing speed, and to transfer to improvements in real world measures, including: mood — greater confidence and reduced onset and deepening of depressive symptoms; driving — fewer dangerous maneuvers and at-fault crashes; personal mobility – better balance and gait; health outcomes — better general health and lower predicted costs; and maintaining personal independence — better performance at Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs) and timed IADLs.
This is the first study of this exercise in assisted (47%) and independent (53%) living communities. The population had a higher average age and a higher average level of health issues than prior studies in largely-healthy, older adults. Nonetheless, the researchers reported statistically significant improvements in speed of processing. The gains (Cohen’s d of 0.25-0.40) translated into improvements of about 39 to 63 milliseconds on the UFOV test.
“Our findings have important implications for the care of older adults,” the researchers wrote in their report. “They provide…support for the use of SOPT [Speed of Processing Training] with the generally older and less healthy adults in independent and assisted living, because SOPT benefits were not significantly different between these groups, and their outcomes were comparable with those of prior studies of younger, healthier older adults.”