August 15, 2016
Imagine being 80 years old, healthy, with high intelligence levels for your age, but having frequent memory problems affecting quality life and causing day to day stress. This was the case for a man from Brazil who agreed to participate in a cognitive intervention case study.
Referred to as ‘S.Z.’, he agreed to be the single study subject for a group of Sao Paulo neuropsychologists wanting to find out if cognitive training could help reverse the effects of natural aging. Married with four children, and holder of a PhD in architecture, S.Z. undertook a yearlong program of NeuroTracker and memory training, spread out over 32 sessions. The researchers selected NeuroTracker because cognitive training involving intense mental activity had showed promise for improvements in impaired memory. To gain a detailed look into changes over time, S.Z. also completed a wide range of pre-mid-post training tests on cognitive function, as well as multiple questionnaires assessing aspects of quality of life.
And so, a year later? The training proved effective for gains in episodic and working memory, memory strategies, and faster information processing speed. S.Z also showed improvements in sustained and alternating attention, along with above-average cognitive flexibility. A promising factor was that along with the on-going learning curves with NeuroTracker scores, the measures on the assessments were showing improvement over time even at the end of the 12 months.
Perhaps more importantly, did S.Z. feel any different? His questionnaire results improved for self-perceived attention, memory, quality of life and self-confidence, along with reduced physical and psychological stress symptoms. Based on the findings, the neuropsychologists called for future studies to further this research area, and concluded:
‘The results suggest that the use of NeuroTracker for training cognitive processes is valid for cognitive rehabilitation programs to promote improvements in quality of life in the elderly, corroborating the results of previous studies.’
Although this is a single case study, the qualitative results are promising. The processes of normal aging can negatively impact all areas of day to day life, as well as family and friends. Cognitive treatments without the costs and risks of medication, that are also simple to do and require little time could offer a great deal for extending quality of life into old age. It is compelling to see research in this area, which will hopefully lead the way to larger studies.
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