Boosting Boomer Brains

brainWe boomer grandmas are of interest to scientists lately.  First, there was a ten year review of a study on brain training, “Brain-training Can Help Older Adults Stave Off Aging Impairments, Study Finds,” detailed in the Boston Globe, January 14, 2014, by Kay Lazar:

In a first-of-its kind study, researchers report Monday that older adults who engaged in brain training drills retained measurable benefits up to 10 years later, suggesting such interventions may help stave off impairments of aging that rob seniors of their independence. The trial, which involved roughly 2,800 participants from across the country, including in Massachusetts, is by far the largest and longest such study to date. As aging baby boomers search for ways to stay mentally sharp, the popularity of brain games has soared in recent years, but researchers have decried a lack of rigorous evidence showing these interventions are effective in the long term. The latest trial found that nearly three-quarters of those who participated in reasoning exercises and information processing drills still displayed those abilities a decade later.

It seems the participants started the training drills while they were around age 63.  This Grandma was most interested in the extent of the brain training drills required to show “retained measurable benefits up to 10 years later . . . that such interventions may help stave off impairments of aging that rob seniors of their independence.”  This Grandma likes candy crush saga and bingo apps.  Not what it seems works:

Most brain games on the market involve computer exercises. But in the new study, researchers used paper-and-pencil tests that honed problem-solving involving letter and number patterns, in addition to computer drills that tested the ability to quickly distinguish an image among a constantly changing screen. . . .

The training groups participated in 10 sessions, each lasting about 60 to 70 minutes over five to six weeks, with some participants randomly selected for later booster sessions. The study measured effects immediately following each session, and at various intervals up to 10 years later.

Seems like a lot of work.  Then, I found an even better idea for those of us hooked on apps and hooked on coffee.  Coffee!  This study, reported in the New York Times, January 4, 2014,

“Coffee as a Memory Booster,” by Nicholas Bakalar, is more up my line.

Researchers had 73 male and female volunteers who did not habitually consume caffeine study pictures of flowers, musical instruments and other objects. After they were done, 35 of them were given a pill containing 200-milligrams of caffeine — the amount in one to two cups of coffee — and the rest an identical looking placebo. Neither the subjects nor the researchers knew until the study ended who took caffeine and who took an inert pill.

 The next day they showed the volunteers more pictures, asking them if they were the same, different, or different but similar to the pictures they had seen the previous day.

 Those who had caffeine pills were significantly better at identifying pictures that were different but similar to the ones they had seen the previous day. In other tests, the researchers found that less than 200 milligrams had no effect, and more did not further improve the participants’ scores.

 The senior author, Michael A. Yassa, formerly at Johns Hopkins and now an assistant professor of neurobiology at the University of California, Irvine, said that the study, published online in Nature Neuroscience, does not prove that caffeine is a memory pill.

 “We don’t even know what the exact effective dose would be,” he said. What will Dr. Yassa himself do? “I’m a regular coffee drinker, and nothing is going to change that.”

Since this Grandma drinks lots of Starbucks regularly, I expect to have no memory problems and can continue playing the games I love, for whatever they are worth.





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