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Computerized Cognitive Speed of Processing Training Reduces Dementia Incidence 
from the AAIC (Alzheimer’s Association International Conference) Press Conference in Toronto
 July 2016

by
Jerri D. Edwards, PhD
Huiping Xu, PhD
Daniel O. Clark, PhD
Lesley A Ross, PhD
Fred W. Unverzagt, PhD

as summarized by Jean Kadela

The Advanced Cognitive Training in Vital Elderly Study (ACTIVE) was a multisite, randomized controlled trial whose objective was to examine the effects of three different cognitive training techniques on time to incident dementia among community dwelling older adults.  

Eligible participants had an average age of 73.6 years, and had completed baseline assessments of cognitive abilities (memory, reasoning and speed of processing), and functional abilities (self-report and performance-based measures of everyday function).

Participants in the training conditions completed up to 10 sessions of training over a 5-week period, and all were reassessed immediately post-training, and at 1, 2, 3, 5 and 10 years. Participants were offered additional training sessions prior to years 1 and 3. 

The participants were randomized to one of four conditions:
•    Strategy-based memory or reasoning training
•    Computerized training
•    Process-based speed of processing training
•    No-contact controls

The outcome of interest was years from the start of the ACTIVE study to the incidence of dementia. Intent-to-treat analysis examined whether participants randomized to reasoning, memory or speed training had different risk of incident dementia. Given that training transfer varies by doses, the dose effects of training (the number of sessions completed) were further examined.

Results: 2,785 participants were included in the analyses, of which 331 met the criteria for dementia.  Larger doses of speed of processing training significantly delayed the onset of incident dementia. Significant effects remained after adjustment for age, sex, race, marital status, physical function, depressive symptoms, and diabetes. 

Among participants in the control condition, dementia incidence was 14%. Dementia incidence was 12.1% among those completing 10 or fewer sessions of speed processing training, while it was only 8.2% among those who completed 11-14 speed of processing training sessions, a reduction of 48% risk relative to controls.

Conclusion: Specific forms and doses of cognitive training may offer a means to delay dementia onset and thereby improve public health.

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