Dr. Iris Penner from the University of Basel in Switzerland has reported the results of a computer-based cognitive training program called BrainStim that appears to increase working memory in healthy elderly people.

Here are the highlights based on the Medscape report from the European Neurological Society meeting.

First, the details.

  • 9 healthy elderly people underwent a comprehensive neuropsychological exam that included visual and verbal short-term memory, attention, concentration, and information processing speed.
  • They then used the training program for 45 minutes, 4 times each week for 4 weeks.

The computer-training tool included 3 modules.

  • City map module: To train spatial orientation, participants found their way on a city map after being shown the route visually or after verbal instructions.
  • Pairs module: To test visual object memory and the updating function, participants looked for matching pairs by turning over cards.
  • Memorize numbers: To test working memory, participants recalled numbers after first doing an arithmetic “distractor” task.

And, the results.
Dr. Penner concluded, “In healthy aging people, we could see that with the training, they improved significantly, and this improvement was seen both in neuropsychological testing and in their daily living.”

The bottom line?
A study in multiple sclerosis patients showed similar results, and another in patients with schizophrenia is ongoing.

Think of the possibilities of a similar program being available for independent seniors living at home. Of course, they would have to remember to (or know how to) turn on the computer.

7/11/08 19:57 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at www.Vicus.com, a complementary and alternative medicine website.