Mental Training Enhances Cognitive Function and BDNF More Than Either Physical or Combined Training in Elderly Women With MCI: A Small-Scale Study

Am J Alzheimers Dis Other Demen. 2018 Feb;33(1):20-29. doi: 10.1177/1533317517727068. Epub 2017 Sep 25.


Introduction: The effects of mental, physical, and combination of these two trainings were investigated on cognitive performance, serum level of brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), and irisin in women diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).

Material and methods: Forty-four participants were randomized into 4 groups: physical training (PH; 8 weeks' aerobic training, n = 11), mental training (ME; special computer gaming, n = 11), combined (PH + ME; n = 13), and control group (CO; n = 9).

Results: Analysis of variance with Tukey post hoc test revealed a significant increase in working memory ( P = .012) and BDNF ( P = 0.024) in the ME compared with the CO group. Also the ME group in comparison with the PH group demonstrated better working memory ( P = .014) and processing speed ( P = .024).

Conclusion: Positive effect of mental training on the cognitive parameters, parallel with BDNF elevation, suggests that mental training is a more useful, safe, and persistent strategy to attenuate the progression of MCI probably via BDNF elevation, but the effect size is relatively small elevation.

Keywords: Alzheimer; BDNF; MCI; cognitive performance; computer Stroop task; irisin.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor* / blood
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / therapy*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Memory, Short-Term / physiology
  • Stroop Test / statistics & numerical data


  • Biomarkers
  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor