Effect of a computerized brain exercise program on cognitive performance in older adults

Am J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2013 Jul;21(7):655-63. doi: 10.1016/j.jagp.2013.01.077. Epub 2013 Apr 18.


Objectives: Research indicates an association between stimulating mental activities and better memory performance as people age, but studies on computerized mental stimulation programs are limited. We explored whether computerized brain training exercises improved cognitive performance in older adults.

Methods: In local retirement communities, a convenience sample was randomized into an intervention group (N = 36), who used a computer program 5 days a week for 20-25 minutes each day, or a wait-list control group (N = 33). All were older adults without dementia (mean age: 81.8 years; SD: 6.1; 67% female). Neuropsychological testing was completed at baseline (Time 1), 2 months (Time 2), and 6 months (Time 3). Three cognitive domains (Immediate Memory, Delayed Memory, Language) were compared in the two groups as a function of time using mixed models.

Results: The intervention group used the computerized program (Brain Fitness, Dakim Inc., Santa Monica, CA) for an average of 43 (SD: 4.4) sessions by Time 2 and 81 (SD: 37.5) sessions by Time 3. Mixed models examining cognitive domains as function of time revealed significant group differences in Delayed Memory (F(2,72) = 4.7, p = 0.01) but not Immediate Memory and Language; no significant improvements were noted for the control group. Among all participants, anyone playing at least 40 sessions over the 6 months improved in all three domains (Immediate Memory, Delayed Memory, and Language).

Conclusion: Participating in a computerized brain exercise program over 6 months improves cognitive abilities in older adults. These results extend literature indicating the benefit of training exercises, whether in a classroom format or via a computerized self-paced program.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Aging / psychology*
  • Cognition*
  • Cognitive Reserve*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory*
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Therapy, Computer-Assisted / methods*