Summary: For healthy adults over 55, cognitive training can improve innovative thinking, researchers report.
Source: Center For Brainhealth.
Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas have demonstrated in a pilot study that cognitive training improves innovative thinking, along with corresponding positive brain changes, in healthy adults over the age of 55.
The study, published recently in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, reveals that a specific strategic cognitive training program enhanced innovation in healthy adults. Performance was measured by an individual’s ability to synthesize complex information and generate a multitude of high-level interpretations.
“Middle-age to older adults should feel empowered that, in many circumstances, they can reverse decline and improve innovative thinking,” said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, Center for BrainHealth founder and chief director and lead author of the study. “Innovative cognition – the kind of thinking that reinforces and preserves complex decision-making, intellect and psychological well-being – does not need to decline with age. This study reveals that cognitive training may help enhance cognitive capacities and build resilience against decline in healthy older adults.”
The SMART program – Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training – was developed at the Center for BrainHealth. It focuses on learning strategies that foster attention, reasoning and broad-based perspective-taking.
Center for BrainHealth researchers conducted a randomized pilot trial and compared the effect of SMART to aerobic exercise training (known to be good for brain health) and control subjects on innovative cognition. The SMART program was conducted one hour per week for 12 weeks with 2 hours of homework each week. The 58 participants were assessed at baseline-, mid- and post-training using innovative cognition measures and functional MRI, a brain scanning technology that reveals brain activity.
“In addition to evaluating the effects of the cognitive training, this study also provided an opportunity to test a reliable assessment tool to measure innovative cognition, which has been relatively neglected due to the complexity of quantifying innovative thinking,” Chapman said.
The 19 participants in the cognitive reasoning training group (SMART) showed significant gains pre- to post-training in high-quality innovation performance, improving their performance by an average of 27 percent from baseline to mid- and post-training periods on innovative cognition measures. The physical exercise and control groups did not show improvement. These positive gains in the reasoning training group corresponded to increased connectivity among brain cells in the central executive network of the brain, an area responsible for innovative thinking.
“Advances in the field of MRI are allowing us to measure different aspects of brain function,” said Dr. Sina Aslan, an imaging specialist at the Center for BrainHealth. “Through this research, we are able to see that higher activity in the central executive network corresponded to improved innovation. These findings suggest that staying mentally active not only mitigates cognitive decline, but also has the potential to restore creative thinking, which is typically lost with aging.”
While further research is needed to establish how to ensure the benefit persists, Chapman is encouraged by the results.
“Reasoning training offers a promising cost-effective intervention to enhance innovative cognition – one of the most valued capacities and fruitful outputs of the human mind at any age.”
Funding: The work was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Health and by grants from the T. Boone Pickens Foundation, the Lyda Hill Foundation and Dee Wyly Distinguished University Endowment.
Source: Emily Bywaters – Center For Brainhealth
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.
Original Research: Full open access research for “Enhancing Innovation and Underlying Neural Mechanisms Via Cognitive Training in Healthy Older Adults” by Sandra B. Chapman, Jeffrey S. Spence, Sina Aslan and Molly W. Keebler in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. Published online October 9 2017 doi:10.3389/fnagi.2017.00314
Enhancing Innovation and Underlying Neural Mechanisms Via Cognitive Training in Healthy Older Adults
Non-invasive interventions, such as cognitive training (CT) and physical exercise, are gaining momentum as ways to augment both cognitive and brain function throughout life. One of the most fundamental yet little studied aspects of human cognition is innovative thinking, especially in older adults. In this study, we utilize a measure of innovative cognition that examines both the quantity and quality of abstracted interpretations. This randomized pilot trial in cognitively normal adults (56–75 years) compared the effect of cognitive reasoning training (SMART) on innovative cognition as measured by Multiple Interpretations Measure (MIM). We also examined brain changes in relation to MIM using two MRI-based measurement of arterial spin labeling (ASL) to measure cerebral blood flow (CBF) and functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) to measure default mode and central executive network (CEN) synchrony at rest. Participants (N = 58) were randomized to the CT, physical exercise (physical training, PT) or control (CN) group where CT and PT groups received training for 3 h/week over 12 weeks. They were assessed at baseline-, mid- and post-training using innovative cognition and MRI measures. First, the CT group showed significant gains pre- to post-training on the innovation measure whereas the physical exercise and control groups failed to show significant gains. Next, the CT group showed increased CBF in medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) and bilateral posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), two nodes within the Default Mode Network (DMN) compared to physical exercise and control groups. Last, significant correlations were found between innovation performance and connectivity of two major networks: CEN (positive correlation) and DMN (negative correlation). These results support the view that both the CEN and DMN are important for enhancement of innovative cognition. We propose that neural mechanisms in healthy older adults can be modified through reasoning training to better subserve enhanced innovative cognition.
“Enhancing Innovation and Underlying Neural Mechanisms Via Cognitive Training in Healthy Older Adults” by Sandra B. Chapman, Jeffrey S. Spence, Sina Aslan and Molly W. Keebler in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience. Published online October 9 2017 doi:10.3389/fnagi.2017.00314