Brain Power

BrainProblems with memory are common for people with depression (and the rest of us, as we age, as well). Although the most important thing to do to improve brain function is to address mood extremes, there are often residual problems, and sometimes there are negative brain effects from the medications that help stabilize mood.

A wonderful older man who came to see us three years ago for help with a severe depression, has long been enthusiastic about the value of computer programs designed to help improve brain function.

A recent study, reported in Psych News, supports his enthusiasm.

Karen Miller, Ph.D an associate clinical professor of neuroscience and human behavior at UCLA , and her associates conducted a study to determine whether or not computerized brain exercises have an effect on  the cognitive abilities of older adults.

The study included 69 cognitively normal older individuals. Their memory and language skills were tested, and they were then randomized to engage in an eight-week computer memory-training program or to be wait-listed for it.
Their memory and language skills were also tested two months and six months after the start of the study. Use of the program led to improved delayed memory scores after two months and six months. Also, anyone who used the
program for more than 40 sessions improved in terms of not just delayed memory, but immediate memory and language abilities.

“These results suggest that this form of computerized cognitive training may have its greatest benefit when used consistently for at least two months (or the equivalent of 40 sessions) or more,” the researchers concluded.
The findings also dovetail with the passionate conviction of Dilip Jeste, M.D., former APA president and chair in aging at the University of California, San Diego, that seniors can continue to function at a high level. “Studies across species have shown that brain growth and development are not restricted to childhood, but continue into old age,” he said.

“Blood vessels, synapses, even neurons can grow in certain parts of thebrain–provided there is optimal psychosocial and physical stimulation.”

For more information about these ground-breaking findings, click this link.