Computer-based, personalized cognitive training versus classical computer games: a randomized double-blind prospective trial of cognitive stimulation

Neuroepidemiology. 2011;36(2):91-9. doi: 10.1159/000323950. Epub 2011 Feb 10.


Background: Many studies have suggested that cognitive training can result in cognitive gains in healthy older adults. We investigated whether personalized computerized cognitive training provides greater benefits than those obtained by playing conventional computer games.

Methods: This was a randomized double-blind interventional study. Self-referred healthy older adults (n = 155, 68 ± 7 years old) were assigned to either a personalized, computerized cognitive training or to a computer games group. Cognitive performance was assessed at baseline and after 3 months by a neuropsychological assessment battery. Differences in cognitive performance scores between and within groups were evaluated using mixed effects models in 2 approaches: adherence only (AO; n = 121) and intention to treat (ITT; n = 155).

Results: Both groups improved in cognitive performance. The improvement in the personalized cognitive training group was significant (p < 0.03, AO and ITT approaches) in all 8 cognitive domains. However, in the computer games group it was significant (p < 0.05) in only 4 (AO) or 6 domains (ITT). In the AO analysis, personalized cognitive training was significantly more effective than playing games in improving visuospatial working memory (p = 0.0001), visuospatial learning (p = 0.0012) and focused attention (p = 0.0019).

Conclusions: Personalized, computerized cognitive training appears to be more effective than computer games in improving cognitive performance in healthy older adults. Further studies are needed to evaluate the ecological validity of these findings.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods
  • Computer-Assisted Instruction / methods*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Teaching / methods*
  • Video Games / psychology*