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Cognitive Training Can Help the Elderly with Daily Functions

Effects can be long lasting; benefit seen in daily activities

TUESDAY, Dec. 19 (HealthDay News) -- Cognitive training can help improve the daily functioning of elderly patients, according to a report in the Dec. 20 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Sherry L. Willis, Ph.D., of Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pa., and colleagues studied 2,832 people with a mean age of 73.6 years in six U.S. cities randomized into four groups. Three of the groups received 10 sessions of training for verbal episodic memory; inductive reasoning; or visual search and identification (speed of processing). There were four booster training sessions for a random sample at 11 and 35 months. The fourth group received no interventions.

Compared with the control group, those in the inductive reasoning group reported improvements in the instrumental activities of daily living (IADL), although those in the visual search and identification and verbal episodic memory groups demonstrated little improvement.

There were mixed results for the booster training, which improved the functional measure for the speed of processing group but not in the other two groups, and booster training had no effect on self-reported IADL. The effects of the cognitive training were sustained at five years' follow-up, the report indicates.

"We…support future research to examine if these and other cognitive interventions can prevent or delay functional disability in an aging population," the authors write.

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