Cognitive Training or Video Games?

Cognitive Training or Video Games?
In my last article, “Cognitive Training that Works”, I explained the necessity for the wise consumer to obtain scientific proof for the cognitive training program of his or her choice. I also explained what constitutes scientific proof and what does not. The present article is about some of the scientifically proven benefits of cognitive training in older adults in an exciting new study that compared the effect of cognitive training to that of video games.

Cognitive training is brain fitness for those who want to slow cognitive decline and improve their quality of life. Using cognitive training, you can maintain or enhance a wide range of cognitive abilities in areas such as memory, visual and spatial processing, executive control, and speed of processing. Among the companies that develop cognitive training software, only a few provide rigorous scientific proof that the training works. CogniFit can and many scientific studies have been conducted using the CogniFit training software, with the findings demonstrating the program’s efficacy in improving cognitive skills. Here, I discuss the most recent CogniFit study that appeared as a peer-reviewed publication in a scientific journal.

Age-related cognitive decline is a problem that affects many healthy older adults, causing major difficulties in tasks such as driving, learning new skills, navigating in novel environments, and planning and remembering daily activities.1 Thus, many scientific studies that have utilized CogniFit training software have focused on a population of healthy older adults, who are at the greatest risk for experiencing age-related cognitive decline.

In a very recent rigorously controlled study published in Neuroepidemiology scientists investigated the benefits of CogniFit training as compared to playing computer video games in a population of adults aged fifty years and older. The cognitive training group, who used the software three times a week for the duration of three months, improved significantly more on a well validated mainstream neurocognitive battery in several cognitive areas when compared to the control group who played for the same duration of time three times a week. The cognitive training group significantly surpassed the video games playing group on spatial short-term memory, visuo-spatial learning, and focused attention, as well as on the overall Nexade cognitive score.

This study is of special importance because, despite playing a wide variety of challenging classical video games, the control group improved very little and could not match the significant cognitive improvements experienced by the cognitive training group.

Why is cognitive training superior to video games? The authors offer two explanations. First they think that the CogniFit training program, being highly personalized had tailored a unique training regimen for each participant. This was done using the results that each participant obtained on the full CogniFit neuropsychological baseline evaluation that opens the training. Because no two persons ever get the same results on the CogniFit neuropsychological evaluation, no two persons are likely to get the same training regimen. Rather, each is assigned training matched to his or her own needs. Another explanation offered by the scientists to explain why CogniFit works better than games lies in the multiplicity of the cognitive skills assessed and trained by the program. Indeed, CogniFit assesses and consequently trains at least 14 different abilities that are all important for prolonging autonomy and increasing quality of life in the elderly.

My next article will discuss cognitive training for individuals diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI).

Full text Reference

Peretz, C., Korczyn, A.D., Shatil, E., Aharonson, V., Birnboim, S. & Giladi, N. Computer-Based, Personalized Cognitive Training versus Classical Computer Games: A Randomized Double-Blind Prospective Trial of Cognitive Stimulation Neuroepidemiology 2011;36:91-99

Dr. Evelyn Shatil is Head of Cognitive Science at CogniFit. In this capacity she has established and is heading CogniFit’s scientific research program which includes a large and growing number of research collaborations in the US, Canada, Europe and Israel.

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