COMMENTARY

Preserving Cognition on a Computer

Peter M. Yellowlees, MBBS, MD

Disclosures

April 10, 2017

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This is the Medscape Psychiatry Minute. I'm Dr Peter Yellowlees.

Previous meta-analyses indicate that computerized cognitive training (CCT) is a safe and efficacious intervention for cognition in older adults. However, little is known about the efficacy of CCT in people with mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

Now, a team of investigators[1] from the University of New South Wales, Australia, have undertaken a systematic review and meta-analysis of 17 relevant published trials. The researchers found that CCT is moderately effective for global cognition, attention, working memory, learning, and memory (with the exception of nonverbal memory), and for psychosocial functioning, including depressive symptoms, in people with mild cognitive impairment. Conversely, evidence for efficacy in people with dementia is weak.

So, what should we advise the many patients who ask us whether they should engage in CCT in retirement, and whether that will reduce their likelihood of dementia? First, the old adage of "use it or lose it" still stands true. The evidence is that CCT does improve your cognition as long as you do not already have dementia, so we should continue to encourage our nondementia patients to take part in these programs. For those who have mild cognitive impairment, this advice still applies, but we need longer-term and larger-scale trials to examine the effectiveness of CCT on patients who have already developed dementia.

Thank you for listening to this Medscape Psychiatry Minute. Do enjoy your practice.

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