118 Older Brains Grow!

Based on research by Ball, et al.. Written by Mara Rowcliffe, BS.

Is our mental ability fixed after childhood? Not according to recent research. Neuroscientists have demonstrated that adults’ brains are constantly growing new neurons and connections – identified as neuroplasticity.

Brain processes like memory, attention, problem solving, mental flexibility, and speed of brain reaction are essential for our functioning in the real world.  To determine whether cognitive training interventions improve mental ability in older adults, psychologists and their teams assessed over 2,800 people between the ages of 65 to 94.  Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 4 groups, which included training for memory, reasoning, speed of processing, or no intervention at all.  After the assigned training, 87% of the participants demonstrated improvement in speed of processing, 74% improved in reasoning, and 26% improved in memory.  Additional “booster training” resulted in further training gains that were consistent for 2 years after the initial assessment.

Normal elderly individuals perform better on multiple measures of the specific cognitive ability for which they were trained. Luckily, you can find fun games and programs on the Internet to keep your brain active throughout your life span. Train your brain. Learn something new! Take up a new challenge!


Ball, K., Berch, D. B., Helmers, K. F., Jobe, J. B., Leveck, M. D., Marsiske, M., Morris, J. N., Rebok, G. W., Smith, D. M., Tennstedt, S. L., Unverzagt, F. W., & Willis, S. (2002). Effects of Cognitive Training Interventions With Older Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial. JAMA, 288, 18, 2271-2281.

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