Great news today from the ACTIVE (the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly) study, a large longitudinal study funded by the National Institute on Aging and the National Institute of Nursing Research, both parts of the NIH. People who actively train on specific cognitive skills (in this case, memory, processing speed, and reasoning) experience long-term benefits that generalize into everyday living. The group who trained were much more likely to succeed at everyday tasks like driving, managing money, and general problem-solving than their peers who did not participate in these mental exercises. In other words, they kept their mental edge. The conclusion: "use it or lose it" really does apply to the brain, too, and cognitive training can make a big difference.
Heretofore, one of the researchers--Timothy Salthouse--has been very negative about cognitive skills training and has been quoted widely. He has questioned whether there is any worthwhile effect--short or long-term--or if cognitive training can generalize to real-life situations.
Today we got a very different and much more positive view of this important research. Kudos to everyone involved and especially to lead author Sherry L. Willis, PhD of Pennsylvania State University and her co-authors at six other affiliated institutions.