Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Sharpshooting at Birds Might Sharpen Your Mind

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Sharpshooting at Birds Might Sharpen Your Mind

Article excerpt

NEW WRINKLES

I've just had my mind massaged on a website called BrainHQ.com. I took the free trial -- trying to blow away the blackest blackbirds amid fleeting flocks of them -- after reading about some mind- blowing results of a long-range study led by a researcher at the University of Florida's School of Aging Studies and Byrd Alzheimer's Institute.

For the past few years I've been telling readers that no online mental training program, despite the hype, had been scientifically proven to stave off cognitive decline. What is absolutely known to help, I've repeated endlessly, is physical exercise.

But Jerri D. Edwards, an associate professor who directs the USF Cognitive Aging Lab, made some waves at a recent meeting of the American Psychological Association by offering proof from a 10-year study that one type of online workout does get results. It's called "speed-of-processing" -- or "useful field of view" -- training, which basically involves things popping up in your visual field that you must react to rapidly.

Among 2,785 older adults in the analysis, 331 developed dementia over the decade. Those who completed 11 or more sessions of this brain-training technique experienced a 48 percent lower incidence of dementia than those with no training at all. And studies of this method also suggest that it radically extends the ability to drive a car as well -- not surprising when you consider how important reaction time is to avoiding a crash.

"It works," Edwards told me flatly. "Speed, or mental quickness, is usually the first cognitive ability to decline with age, and it starts to happen around the age of 25. It's gradual, so we don't really notice it. It just makes sense that if we're improving your ability to function, we would be able to delay the onset of dementia."

The BrainHQ program costs $8 or $14 a month, depending on your subscription. …

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