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Sep 19, 2011

Memory Improved with Brain Fitness Program

A healthy brain is one that gets “exercised” regularly in both a mental and physical sense.  New research shows that memory can be improved in healthy elderly adults by implementation of brain exercises and healthy lifestyle changes.  The study population included 115 residents living in retirement communities in Maryland, ages 63 and older.  The majority of participants were white females (98% white, 79% female), and all participants had slight memory complaints but no diagnosis of dementia.  Each participant underwent memory testing and then was randomly enrolled in the memory fitness program or placed on a waiting list for the program.  During 12 bi-weekly 60-minute sessions, the memory fitness program consisted of memory training, physical activity, stress reduction, and education on diet for a healthy brain. 

After 6 weeks of the program, participants demonstrated significant improvements in areas such as word recognition and recall.  Improvements were reflected not only in objective but also subjective measurements.  For example, objective cognitive measures included things like retention of verbal information while subjective measures looked at frequency and severity of forgetting.  Participants were able to perceive positive changes in their memory abilities.   

The Erickson Foundation, directed by John Parrish, PhD, oversees retirement communities including the ones used in this study.  According to Parrish, the memory fitness program will be offered in all 16 of their communities spread throughout the country.      
Lead author Karen Miller, PhD, pointed out, “The study demonstrates that it’s never too late to learn new skills to enhance one’s life.”  Another author concluded, “It's important to empower people and teach them about healthy brain lifestyle. Although there's no absolute proof that you can prevent Alzheimer's disease, we know that physical exercise and healthy diet can prevent diabetes, which is itself a major risk factor for Alzheimer's. So it all seems to tie together."

Healthy brain function is a necessity for a happy healthy life.  If you want your brain to work for you throughout life, you've also got to work for it!   

This study was published online in the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

Dr. Shana McQueen