Novelty interventions to enhance broad cognitive abilities and prevent dementia: synergistic approaches for the facilitation of positive plastic change

Prog Brain Res. 2013;207:403-34. doi: 10.1016/B978-0-444-63327-9.00017-5.


Process-based cognitive trainings (PCTs) and novelty interventions are two traditional approaches aiming to prevent cognitive decline and dementia. However, both have their limitations. PCTs improve performance only in cognitive tests similar to the training tasks with inconsistent transfer effects on dissimilar tests. We argue that this learning specificity is due to a low training task variability. Novelty interventions are characterized by a high task variability but do not target specific processing demands affected in aging and dementia. To overcome the limitations of both approaches, we developed a process-based novelty intervention using a card and board game-based training approach. Here, we use highly variable tasks, which overlap in targeted processing demands ("overlapping variability" framework). Another nontraditional training approach combines cognitively with physically challenging tasks to induce multimechanistic effects, which might even interact positively. Initial results of both synergistic approaches indicate their potential to enhance broad cognitive abilities and prevent dementia.

Keywords: challenging mental activity; dementia; executive control; learning specificity; novelty intervention; physically demanding novelty intervention; process-based cognitive training; process-based novelty intervention; variability of practice.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Dementia / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Learning / physiology*
  • Neuronal Plasticity / physiology*