Can brain training prevent Alzheimer’s disease?

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Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that leads to memory loss, cognitive decline, and functional impairments.

It is the most common cause of dementia in older adults, affecting millions of people worldwide.

With the increasing prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and the lack of a cure, there is a growing interest in strategies that could help prevent or delay the onset of the disease.

One such approach is brain training, which refers to a range of mental exercises designed to improve cognitive abilities, such as memory, attention, and problem-solving.

This review aims to evaluate the current evidence on the effectiveness of brain training in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain Training: An Overview

Brain training encompasses various methods and techniques that aim to enhance cognitive function through mental exercises.

These exercises can be done using computer-based programs, smartphone applications, or even traditional paper-and-pencil tasks.

Some popular forms of brain training include memory exercises, attention tasks, problem-solving activities, and speed-processing exercises.

The idea behind brain training is that, by regularly engaging in these mental exercises, individuals can maintain or even improve their cognitive abilities, making them more resilient against age-related cognitive decline and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

Current Evidence on Brain Training and Alzheimer’s Disease Prevention

The relationship between brain training and Alzheimer’s disease prevention has been the subject of numerous scientific studies over the past few decades.

The results of these studies have been mixed, with some showing promising effects and others reporting no significant benefits.

Several longitudinal studies have suggested that engaging in cognitively stimulating activities, such as reading, playing board games, or solving puzzles, is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

These findings support the “cognitive reserve” theory, which posits that individuals who regularly engage in mentally stimulating activities build a buffer against age-related cognitive decline, making them less susceptible to developing Alzheimer’s.

On the other hand, some randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have reported mixed results regarding the effectiveness of specific brain training interventions in improving cognitive function and preventing Alzheimer’s disease.

A systematic review and meta-analysis published in 2020 examined the effects of computerized cognitive training on cognitive function in older adults.

The analysis included 51 RCTs with a total of 4,962 participants. The results showed that computerized cognitive training had small but significant effects on global cognitive function, memory, and processing speed.

However, the study also highlighted the need for more research to determine the long-term effects of these interventions and their potential impact on Alzheimer’s disease risk.

A few large-scale studies have specifically examined the relationship between brain training and Alzheimer’s disease prevention.

One notable study is the Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) trial, which included over 2,800 older adults.

Participants were assigned to one of three cognitive training groups (memory, reasoning, or speed of processing) or a control group.

The results showed that, after ten years, participants in the cognitive training groups had a 29% to 48% lower risk of developing dementia than those in the control group.

However, it’s important to note that the study did not specifically assess Alzheimer’s disease risk, and the findings may not be generalizable to all forms of dementia.

Limitations and Future Directions

Although some studies suggest that brain training may have potential benefits in preventing Alzheimer’s disease, several limitations need to be addressed.

Most of the existing research has focused on short-term outcomes, and there is a lack of evidence regarding the long-term effects of brain training on Alzheimer’s disease risk.

Additionally, the studies often have methodological issues, such as small sample sizes, heterogeneous interventions, and inconsistent outcome measures, making it challenging to draw firm conclusions.

Future research should focus on large-scale, well-designed randomized controlled trials with long-term follow-up to better understand the impact of brain training on Alzheimer’s disease prevention.

Moreover, studies should aim to identify the specific types of cognitive exercises that are most effective in reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s and determine the optimal frequency and duration of brain training interventions.

Furthermore, researchers should explore the potential synergistic effects of brain training combined with other lifestyle interventions, such as physical exercise, social engagement, and a healthy diet, in preventing Alzheimer’s disease.


In conclusion, the current evidence on the effectiveness of brain training in preventing Alzheimer’s disease is mixed, with some studies showing promising results while others report no significant benefits.

Although engaging in cognitively stimulating activities seems to be associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease, more research is needed to establish the long-term effects of specific brain training interventions and their potential impact on Alzheimer’s disease risk.

Until more definitive conclusions can be drawn, it is advisable for individuals to engage in a variety of mentally stimulating activities and adopt a healthy lifestyle that includes regular physical exercise, social engagement, and a balanced diet to promote overall brain health and potentially reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

If you care about brain health, please read studies about vitamin D deficiency linked to Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia, and higher magnesium intake could help benefit brain health.

For more information about brain health, please see recent studies about antioxidants that could help reduce dementia risk, and nose picking could increase risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia.

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