Improving brain processing speed helps memory

February 11th, 2009 - 4:49 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Feb 11 (IANS) Healthy, older adults who participated in a training programme to improve the speed and accuracy of brain processing, registered twice the improvement in certain aspects of memory. “What’s unique in this study is that brain-processing activities seemed to help aspects of memory that were not directly exercised by the programme — a new finding in memory research,” said Glenn Smith, Mayo Clinic neuropsychologist co-author of the study.

For an hour a day, five days a week for eight weeks, participants worked on computer-based activities in their homes. The participants, from Minnesota and California, were aged 65 or older and healthy.

The control group, with 245 adults, watched educational videos on art, history and literature topics. They completed quizzes on the content.

The experimental therapy group, with 242 adults, completed six auditory exercises designed to help the brain improve the speed and accuracy of processing.

For example, participants were asked to distinguish between high- and low-pitched sounds. To start, the sounds were slow and distinct. Gradually, the speed increased and separation disappeared.

“The sounds go faster and faster, until it ends up sounding almost like a click,” said Smith. The difficulty increases only as participants master each step with 85 percent accuracy, said a Mayo Clinic release.

At the end of eight weeks, researchers used a standardised tool to measure participants’ memory changes. “We found that the improvement in these skills was significantly greater in the experimental group — about double,” said Smith.

These findings are scheduled for publication in the April edition of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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