What Works? A Type of Brain Training Associated with Reduced Dementia Risk

The Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) study followed 2,802 older adults who were assigned to one of three types of cognitive training or a control group. Ten years later, new findings have been reported. Researchers examined what, if any, long-term benefits are associated with the different types of cognitive training.

Earlier analyses of the ACTIVE study showed that there were cognitive and functional benefits to participation, and the most recent study showed that one of these types of training reduced risk of dementia 10 years later.

The three types of training examined were speed of processing, memory (strategies to remember verbal information), and reasoning (strategy used to solve problems and patterns). Those who did the speed of processing training showed a lower risk of dementia 10 years later. While earlier studies have shown other benefits  of training in memory and reasoning, these participants were no less likely to develop dementia than the control group. On the other hand, those in the processing speed group had a 29 percent lower risk of dementia than the control group. There was also a relationship between the number of training sessions for the speed group and dementia risk, with each additional session being associated with a 10 percent lower risk of dementia.

Each training session lasted about an hour and consisted of tasks that were designed to improve the speed and accuracy of participants’ visual attention. As participants improved, the difficulty of the computerized program increased over 10 to 13 weeks.

The processing speed program has another advantage over the other techniques used in the ACTIVE study; while the others were taught in a classroom setting, the processing speed training was computerized, meaning that it can be more easily and efficiently disseminated. The processing speed training task used in this study has been exclusively licensed to Posit Science as part of its commercially available website and app. However, it is not known whether users of BrainHQ can expect the same results.


Edwards JD, Huiping X, Clark DO, et al. Speed of processing training results in lower risk of dementia. Alzheimer’s & Dementia: Translational Research & Clinical Interventions (2017); 3(4): 603–611.

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