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Enhancing Innovation and Underlying Neural Mechanisms Via Cognitive Training in Healthy Older Adults

An older man is smiling into the camera.

Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience

Sandra B. Chapman, Jeffrey S. Spence, Sina Aslan and Molly W. Keebler

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The randomized study targeted an area of cognitive training in comparison to strategic thought and abstraction: innovative thinking in healthy older adults. Participants ranged from 56-75 years old and were tested on their ability to practice innovative thought after completing a course in Strategic Memory and Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART™). In this program, three broad areas of higher-order thinking were employed: strategic attention, integrated reasoning, and innovation. These areas focus on filtering, synthesizing, and flexibility, respectively. Data was collected using a multiple interpretations measure (MIM) and brain changes were recorded with MRI-based measurements. Results from the study revealed three main findings. First, the cognitive training group demonstrated significant gains in innovation performance over time. Second, an increase in cerebral blood flow (brain blood flow) for the cognitive training group; and third, significant associations between improvements in innovation scores and connectivity between two major neural networks (central executive network and default mode network). Overall, findings support a potential to harness and enhance brain plasticity as well as improve innovative thinking in cognitively normal older adults.

Participants receiving the cognitive training produced the greatest number of high-quality innovations compared to the controls ad the physical training groups.

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Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD

Chief Director Dee Wyly Distinguished Professor, School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences Co-Leader, The BrainHealth Project

Jeffrey S. Spence, PhD

Director of Biostatistics