Mental Training Is Best For Battling Cognitive Decline
April 16, 2013

Mental Training More Effective Than Drugs, Vitamins In Battling Cognitive Decline

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

There is no evidence drugs, vitamins or herbal supplements can help prevent cognitive decline in otherwise healthy older adults, claims a new study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

Lead author Dr. Raza Naqvi of the University of Toronto and colleagues conducted a thorough review of 32 previously published randomized trials and reportedly found no proof any of those methods could help keep seniors' minds sharp, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

They did, however, find some evidence that computerized memory training programs and other forms of mental exercise could help those adults from experiencing cognitive decay.

“This review provides some evidence to help clinicians and their patients address what strategies might prevent cognitive decline,” Naqvi said in a statement.

Their work could provide help for the 10 to 25 percent of people over the age of 70 who suffer from mild cognitive impairment — a condition characterized by reduced memory, judgment and decision-making in comparison to someone of a similar age, but not enough to interfere with day-to-day activities.

Naqvi and colleagues discovered no strong proof that popular treatments such as ginkgo, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) or vitamin supplements, like vitamin B6, can help stave off mild cognitive impairment.

The researchers reportedly found no evidence suggesting pharmacologic treatments such as cholinesterase inhibitors developed to improve the effectiveness of acetylcholine (a chemical messenger that assists memory, thought and judgment) could be beneficial in treating these conditions.

They also report evidence regarding the mental benefit of physical exercise is weak. Additionally, estrogen therapy actually showed an increase in dementia and cognitive decline, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel said. There was stronger evidence that mental exercises and person-to-person training in memory and reasoning could be helpful.

Future research could focus on the impact of such training on the prevention of cognitive decline, Naqvi said.

“We encourage researchers to consider easily accessible tools such as crossword puzzles and Sudoku that have not been rigorously studied,” he said. “The studies in this review that assessed cognitive exercises used exercises that were both labor- and resource-intensive, and thus may not be applicable to most of our patients.”