Games Boost Memory

Dementia patients improve memory and thinking with cognitive stimulation therapy

(RxWiki News) Just like cars, our brains also get clogged-up and rusty when we don’t use them, and new research suggests that brain inactivity can worsen symptoms of dementia.

Cognitive stimulation therapies from board games to baking stimulate our brain, and researchers at Bangor University in the U.K. discovered that this leads to higher-level thinking and increased memory in dementia patients.

"Play word games and solve puzzles with elderly loved ones."

“The most striking findings in this review are those related to the positive effects of cognitive stimulation on performance in cognitive tests,” says Bob Woods, Ph.D., lead author on the study.

Dr. Woods worked with colleagues in the Dementia Services Development Center at the University to analyze 15 trials found in Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL). The review examined the cognitive function of 718 people with mild to moderate dementia--407 of the patients engaging in cognitive stimulation therapy and 311 acting as controls.

The authors explain, "[Cognitive stimulation] involves a wide range of activities that aim to stimulate thinking and memory generally, including discussion of past and present events and topics of interest, word games, puzzles, music and practical activities such as baking or indoor gardening."

Within their chosen studies, all patients had engaged in at least one accredited test of cognitive function. Additionally, self-reports and reports from caregivers were assessed when available.

The team found that those who participated in an intervention received substantially higher test scores than those who did not and follow-ups demonstrated that the results persisted three months after treatment. Caregivers noted that patients also seemed to demonstrate social improvements and were generally happier.

This social and mental regeneration may be able to be explained by our brain's capacity to “continually adapt and rewire itself," says the Franklin Institute, one of the oldest centers of science research and education in the nation. When the mind is stimulated, it's developing and protecting itself from cognitive decline.

The trials observed in this study included people who showed symptoms of mild or moderate dementia, and the authors noted, "The intervention does not appear to be appropriate for people with severe dementia."  The scientists believe more research is needed to figure out the what exposure and consistency provides the longest lasting effects and how long the benefits are expected to sustain for.   

The Cochrane Library published this study on February 15, 2012 and reported no conflicts