Earlier this month, I presented research related to the HABIT Healthy Action to Benefit Independence & Thinking Program ® at the American Psychological Association’s Annual Conference in San Francisco. I was part of a panel of speakers talking about the use of technology to help with cognitive change in aging, Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), and dementia. Along with presentations geared towards the coolest new high tech systems to help folks with memory loss, I was asked to speak about “Low Tech versus High Tech” interventions.
It was really interesting to see the CEO of Posit Science, Henry Mahncke present on our panel about the science behind Brain HQ, the computerized cognitive exercise program that we use in the HABIT Program. He stressed the solid research base that has been built in using the computer program to help benefit concentration, processing speed, and memory in the healthy elderly population. Some results related to Brain HQ also recently presented at the Alzheimer’s Association’s International Conference showed benefit to processing speed out to 10 years!
Dr. Adam Woods from the University of Florida presented on the use of neuromodulation technologies, specifically transcranial direct current stimulation, in helping enhance cognition. This involves attaching electrodes and delivering electrical current to certain parts of the brain while doing cognitive tasks. Although this area of research is relatively new, he did have some interesting results looking at how memory and learning performances were improved when this cranial stimulation was given. Seems like something out of a Sci Fi movie – COOL!
Maureen Schmitter-Edgecomb from Washington State University presented on the fascinating work they have been doing up there for several years now. Dr. Schmitter-Edgecomb has a long-standing relationship with the engineering school there, and they have done some fascinating work with Smart Homes that sense your movement and patterns to help monitor daily tasks at home. They also are working on a digital calendar and a robot “butler” who knows your calendar and helps remind you of things you may have forgotten!
The bulk of what I presented on was the utility of still using some low tech strategies with individuals with MCI. Specifically, I presented on our Memory Support System (MSS) calendar. We did a study a few years ago where we randomized participants to get either our low tech calendar or the high tech Brain Fitness program.
In that study, we found that both groups improved in their reports of activities of daily living (ADLs) and sense of self-efficacy by training end, but only the calendar group significantly improved compared to a control group that got neither intervention. Also, the calendar group continued to show improvement in self-efficacy out to 6 months after training.
Keep in mind, however, that that study looked at the impacts on ADLs and self-efficacy, not cognitive function itself. We collected this cognitive function data in our recent PCORI study. So, those analyses may show something different. Stay Tuned!