Do brain games help with dementia?

Uncategorized Apr 05, 2021

There are a lot of companies out there selling programs that help train memory and attention and other thinking skills. They say that by doing those programs, it will help keep your brain healthy and even improve your brain.

But do they work? In this post, I’m going to share what the research says and how one world renown doctor uses brain training games as  part of his protocol to prevent and reverse cognitive decline. Be sure to read to the end where I’ll tell you about that protocol and how you can learn more. You may find this information helpful for your loved one with dementia, but I suspect you may even find it more helpful for you because it’s never too early to start good brain health.

If you would rather watch a video on this topic, click here.

Okay, let’s take a peek at the research. 

In 2018, there was a small study where they took 51 adults without dementia and put them through a brain training program called Luminosity. For 3 weeks, this group used the program for 15 mins a day. There was another group of 21 adults who didn’t do any of the brain programs at all. They tested everyone on cognitive tests at the beginning and end of the 3 weeks. Of course, we would expect that the group that had practiced the brain games would improve in the games over time. But, they also showed improvement in other tests, specifically with attention and motor speed, while the group that didn’t get the training did not show any improvement on those tests. But if we want to be really stringent on our scientific criteria this study had a very small number of people involved and we don’t know how long these benefits would last. 


In 2017, a study was published answering the question if brain games could prevent or delay dementia. That study did a review on all possible studies that tried to answer this question. They found 15 studies that used brain games and based on evaluating all those studies, they concluded that  "brain games" “may modestly benefit aspects of cognition and aspects of mood in patients presenting with MCI. However, there is no direct evidence from the studies presented here that "brain games"/CCT can prevent dementia.”


Another 2017 study confirmed that brain training games did not make any significant difference for people with Alzheimer’s disease. 


In general, people who do brain training games show improvement in their scores on those particular games. It makes sense because they are getting practice at doing those things. BUT whether or not those games actually transfer into improvements outside of that game are a bit unclear. The studies that exist to this point use different programs, have people use them for different amounts of time, and they vary in how they actually measure the improvement. There’s also the question of how long those benefits last. But there was that one small 2018 study that did show improvement on cognitive testing scores.  

So what’s the verdict? The verdict is leaning towards that there isn’t a lot of evidence to support that these programs do much. BUT, there is a world renown program by Dr. Dale Bredesen who includes brain training games as part of his comprehensive protocol called ReCode. He mentions various companies such as Lumosity, Dakim, Posit Science and Cogstate as programs he encourages his patients to try.


And while the traditional research is still technically subpar on brain training, Dr Bredesen strongly believes this is one part of a comprehensive program to help brain health. I’ll link his book here for anyone who is interested in learning about his comprehensive program. He talks about important lab values and foods to eat for good brain health AND why there will never be one pill to cure or treat Alzheimer’s. 


I personally am a fan of anything that challenges the brain and gets someone to think and engage in something...especially if the person is spending most of their time in front of the TV. If you don’t use it, you lose it, and I think doing brain training games won’t hurt and hopefully also helps. The downside to some of these brain training programs is the cost so I’d look for programs that offer free trials or have low cost as there was nothing I could find to show that certain paid programs are better than others in terms of their impact on their brain. There may even be some free brain training games to find online. Give it a try, for yourself and if your loved one is able, maybe for your loved one. 


Our brains are remarkable and they do have the ability to regrow brain cells. While this method isn’t as convincing as we would like it to be, I’d prefer someone to spend some time doing these things during their week if only to get them away from the TV for a bit. 


Next week, I’m going to share information on something that the research has shown to improve brain cells and improve overall cognition, including  for people with dementia and at risk for dementia. 

If you're interested in diving into the research I've talked about today, here are some links to the articles I discussed.

I’ll be back next week, Careblazer. Bye. 


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