Brain Fitness Program Effective for Mild Cognitive Impairment

Spending five hours each week on cognitive stimulation, stress reduction techniques, and fitness training could halt memory decline.
Spending five hours each week on cognitive stimulation, stress reduction techniques, and fitness training could halt memory decline.

WASHINGTON — Among patients with mild cognitive impairment, a brain fitness program significantly improved cognitive function and brain wave activity, and reversed hippocampal atrophy, according to researchers.

Cognitive test results showed that 84% of the 127 patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) who participated in the holistic, multidisciplinary intervention had statistically significant improvements on measures including attention, concentration, executive function, problem solving, and speed of cognitive processing.

To establish the causes of cognitive decline in the patient population, Majid Fotuhi, MD, PhD, and colleagues at NeuroGrow, a brain fitness center in McLean, Virginia, performed an inventory to detect up to 10 different medical causes of MCI, including depression, insomnia, sleep apnea, and B12 deficiency.

All patients were then treated systematically for these underlying causes, and received cognitive stimulation, stress reduction training, fitness training, and education to follow a Mediterranean diet and take omega-3 fatty acid supplements, according to Fotuhi.

The intervention was performed for five hours each week for a total of 12 weeks, and all patients underwent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalogram (EEG) at baseline and post-intervention. Fotuhi presented the findings at the 2015 Alzheimer's Association International Conference

Post-program EEG findings indicated 97% of patients gained moderate- to high-impact changes toward normalized brain wave activity, as indicated by a reduced slow theta waves in the right temporal lobe — a marker of slower cognitive performance, Fotuhi said. 

Among a subset of 17 patients who had MRI results, 65% had evidence of reversed hippocampal atrophy or actual increases in hippocampal mass above baseline volume, the researchers found.

“The volume of the hippocampus shrinks with aging and is often a lot worse among patients with MCI and Alzheimer's disease,” he said. “We were able to show that we may be able to reverse the process.”

Fotuhi and colleagues are in the process of collecting more data from a larger cohort in order to confirm the study findings.

Reference

  1. Fotuhi M et al. #P1-291. “Reversal of Cognitive Decline and Brain Atrophy in MCI Patients in a Personalized 12-Week ‘Brain Fitness Program'.” Presented at: AAIC 2015. July 18-23, 2015. Washington, D.C.
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