Could brain training games help improve your memory and reduce the risk of dementia?

A study by Cambridge University found that video games improved the brain function of those with early memory problems which can be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease.

Participants were given a game to play on an iPad, in which they tried to win gold coins by putting different patterns in their correct places. The results, in the International Journal of Neuropsychopharmacology, showed players improved their “episodic” memory (person's unique memory of a specific event) by about 40 per cent.

Brain training app found to improve memory

This helps to in day to day activities such as remembering where keys were left, or where we parked our car in a multi-storey car park. Professor Barbara Sahakian, one of the inventors, said: “Brain training can be beneficial. But it needs to be based on sound research. Our game allowed us to individualise a patient’s training programme and make it fun.” Larger trials are planned to see how long the benefits last. 

grandma and grandaughter looking at mobile

Dr Carol Routledge from Alzheimer’s Research UK said: “Game Show could hold some benefit for people with mild memory problems. “But without more research we can’t tell if the same benefits could be achieved with any other electronic game. “The fear of a dementia diagnosis is at an all-time high so there is a lot of interest in cognitive brain training.” 

Dr Tara Spires-Jones, Interim Director at Centre for Cognitive and Neural Systems at Edinburgh University, said the findings were “promising”. She said: “While this type of brain training will not ultimately be able to prevent or cure memory diseases like dementia, they are a promising way to improve early memory symptoms of the disease. The results reinforce previous work that cognitive [brain] training improves memory in people with mild cognitive impairment."

But Professor Robert Howard, Professor of Old Age Psychiatry, UCL, said there is little evidence brain training can protect against dementia. He said: “This was an uncontrolled and open study, and so it is difficult to know how much significance we should place on the small improvements in neuropsychological test scores observed.” 

However you feel about the research and opinions of the Professors, one thing makes sense, keeping the brain and body active keeps you happy and healthy. This does not have to be just through apps, but also playing games such as crosswords, scrabble and sudoku.

You can check out the top five brain training apps below:

1. Wizard

Wizard was created by neuroscientists at the University of Cambridge and is intended to improve episodic memory - the type of memory required when you have to remember where you parked your car in a multi-storey car park - of schizophrenia patients.

2. Lumosity

Over 70 million people already use Lumosity worldwide. Billed as a cognitive science app, it offers users brain-training games to exercise mental muscles. 

3. Fit Brains

Fit Brains aims to improve your mental performance with a series of brain games, selected to help your weaker areas. The six key mental functions are: focus, memory, speed, logic, visual and language.

4. Eidetic

Eiedtic uses a technique called spaced repetition to help you memorise anything from important phone numbers to facts.

5. BrainHQ

BrainHQ claims to improve your hearing in crowded places, help you excel at work and even boost your tennis game.

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