Scientists report promising new direction for cognitive rehabilitation in the elderly

August 20, 2012

Research has found that declines in temporal information processing (TIP), the rate at which auditory information is processed, underlies the progressive loss of function across multiple cognitive systems in the elderly, including new learning, memory, perception, attention, thinking, motor control, problem solving, and concept formation. In a new study, scientists have found that elderly subjects who underwent temporal training improved not only the rate at which they processed auditory information, but also in other cognitive areas. The study is published in the current issue of Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience.

"Our study showed for the first time significant benefits of temporal on broad aspects of cognitive function in the elderly. The results were long-lasting, with effects confirmed 18 months after the training," says lead investigator Elzbieta Szelag, Professor, Head of Laboratory of Neuropsychology, Nencki Institute of (www.nencki.gov.pl), and Warsaw School of Social Sciences and (www.swps.pl), Warsaw, Poland.

Thirty subjects between 65 and 75 years of age were randomly assigned to three groups. One group received temporal training using Fast ForWord Language® (FFW), a program comprised of several computer games designed to improve memory, attention, and sequencing abilities. The program was developed to help children who have trouble reading, writing, and learning. The second group participated in non-temporal training by playing common computer games. The third group, the control, underwent no training.

Prior to the training, all of the subjects went through a number of tests to measure their . Two tasks assessed TIP by measuring sequencing abilities. Specifically, at which inter-stimulus-interval subjects could identify the order of two stimuli presented in rapid sequence, i.e. which of two tones was higher or lower, or whether they heard a sound in the right or left ear first. Three aspects of attention were assessed: the ability to sustain attention over a longer period of time (vigilance), the ability to pay attention to multiple processes (divided attention), and the ability to maintain a high level of attention in anticipation of a test stimulus (alertness). Short-term memory was assessed with tests to evaluate working memory span, the ability to match complex patterns, and the ability to recognize a pattern seen earlier.

Each subject in the temporal training group started with exercises from the basic module of FFW. When they reached 100% complete for each exercise, they moved onto an intermediate program, and then an advanced program. They trained for an hour a day, four days a week, for eight weeks. The non-temporal training group played computer games such as Solitaire or Internet games such as Mahjong for the same amount of time. The control group received no training but was tested before and after the eight-week period.

At the end of the training period, cognitive functioning was re-assessed. Prior to training, no significant differences were found among the three groups. After the training, improved temporal was found on the tone task in the temporal training group. It was accompanied by improvements in some aspects of attention and short-term memory. In contrast, the non-temporal training group's attentional and memory resources scores remained at the pre-training level, while only the second measure of temporal information processing improved. Changes in the control group were nonsignificant.

The temporal training group was tested again 18 months after the training completion. The positive effects remained stable. TIP, divided attention, matching complex patterns, and working memory span remained at a similar level as in the post-training assessment. Although vigilance of attention declined from the post-training assessment, for all measures the results were not worse than in the pre-training assessment. "Although FFW does not train other cognitive functions directly, attention and short-term resources were necessary to perform the training tasks correctly," explain Professor Szelag and Dr Skolimowska. "To succeed in the FFW games, the temporal skills had to be accompanied by efficient basic cognitive processes."

Professor Szelag concludes, "These results show a new impact of temporal training on age-related cognitive in the senior population. Moreover, they foster a greater understanding of the relationships between timing and cognition, and they show new possibilities for the application of temporal training." On the basis of these results the Laboratory of Neuropsychology has recently initiated an innovative rehabilitation computer program that addresses improvement of a broad range of cognitive functions in children and adults.

Explore further: Use it or lose it: Mind games help healthy older people too

More information: “Cognitive functioning in elderly can be ameliorated by training in temporal information processing,” by Elzbieta Szelag and Justyna Skolimowska. Restorative Neurology and Neuroscience, 30:5 (September 2012). DOI: 10.3233/RNN-2012-120240.

Related Stories

Use it or lose it: Mind games help healthy older people too

March 27, 2012
Cognitive training including puzzles, handicrafts and life skills are known to reduce the risk, and help slow down the progress, of dementia amongst the elderly. A new study published in BioMed Central's open access journal ...

Brain training computer game improves some cognitive functions relatively quickly

January 11, 2012
The brain training computer game "Brain Age" can improve executive functions and processing speed, even with a relatively short training period, but does not affect global cognitive status or attention, according to a study ...

Memory training unlikely to help in treating ADHD, boosting IQ

May 31, 2012
Working memory training is unlikely to be an effective treatment for children suffering from disorders such as attention-deficit/hyperactivity or dyslexia, according to a research analysis published by the American Psychological ...

Mental gyms reap younger minds

February 2, 2012
(Medical Xpress) -- A daily mental ‘work-out' has given a group of over 50s the brain performance of people several years younger, a Swinburne University of Technology clinical trial has shown.

Brain training increases dopamine release

August 5, 2011
It is known that training can improve working memory. In a new study in Science, researchers from Karolinska Institutet, Umeå University, Åbo Akademi University, and the University of Turku show for the first time ...

Recommended for you

Touching helps build the sexual brain

September 21, 2017
Hormones or sexual experience? Which of these is crucial for the onset of puberty? It seems that when rats are touched on their genitals, their brain changes and puberty accelerates. In a new study publishing September 21 ...

Gene immunotherapy protects against multiple sclerosis in mice

September 21, 2017
A potent and long-lasting gene immunotherapy approach prevents and reverses symptoms of multiple sclerosis in mice, according to a study published September 21st in the journal Molecular Therapy. Multiple sclerosis is an ...

Neuron types in brain are defined by gene activity shaping their communication patterns

September 21, 2017
In a major step forward in research, scientists at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) today publish in Cell a discovery about the molecular-genetic basis of neuronal cell types. Neurons are the basic building blocks that ...

Your neurons register familiar faces, whether you notice them or not

September 21, 2017
When people see an image of a person they recognize—the famous tennis player Roger Federer or actress Halle Berry, for instance—particular cells light up in the brain. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology on ...

Highly precise wiring in the cerebral cortex

September 21, 2017
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the cerebral cortex of mammals, where, among other things, vision, thoughts or spatial ...

Faulty cell signaling derails cerebral cortex development, could it lead to autism?

September 20, 2017
As the embryonic brain develops, an incredibly complex cascade of cellular events occur, starting with progenitors - the originating cells that generate neurons and spur proper cortex development. If this cascade malfunctions ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.