Memory enhancement in healthy older adults using a brain plasticity-based training program: a randomized, controlled study

Publication:  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Lab/University:  Posit Science
Author:  Mahncke HW, Connor BB, Appelman J, Ahsanuddin ON, Hardy JL, Wood RA, Joyce NM, Boniske T, Atkins SM, Merzenich MM

Normal aging is associated with progressive functional losses in perception, cognition, and memory. Although the root causes of age-related cognitive decline are incompletely understood, psychophysical and neuropsychological evidence suggests that a significant contribution stems from poorer signal-to-noise conditions and down-regulated neuromodulatory system function in older brains. Because the brain retains a lifelong capacity for plasticity and adaptive reorganization, dimensions of negative reorganization should be at least partially reversible through the use of an appropriately designed training program. We report here results from such a training program targeting age-related cognitive decline. Data from a randomized, controlled trial using standardized measures of neuropsychological function as outcomes are presented. Significant improvements in assessments directly related to the training tasks and significant generalization of improvements to nonrelated standardized neuropsychological measures of memory (effect size of 0.25) were documented in the group using the training program. Memory enhancement appeared to be sustained after a 3-month no-contact follow-up period. Matched active control and no-contact control groups showed no significant change in memory function after training or at the 3-month follow-up. This study demonstrates that intensive, plasticity-engaging training can result in an enhancement of cognitive function in normal mature adults.