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Neural Mechanisms of Brain Plasticity with Complex Cognitive Training in Healthy Seniors

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Cerebral Cortex

Sandra B. Chapman, Sina Aslan, Jeffrey S. Spence, John J. Hart Jr, Elizabeth K. Bartz, Nyaz Didehbani, Molly W. Keebler, Claire M. Gardner, Jeremy F. Strain, Laura F. DeFina and Hanzhang Lu

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This study builds from previous findings on neurological gains associated with tactical brain strategies. To do this, researchers utilized a group of 37 cognitively healthy adults and randomly assigned them to either the cognitive training group or the control group (no training). The cognitive training group participated in a 12-week strategy-based gist-reasoning program that targets cognitive control of complex information. Specifically, training involves continually extracting the ‘gist’ of information encountered in everyday life (e.g., medical information, investment information, lectures, movies, etc.), in addition to developing innovative interpretations and approaches to problem-solving. Participants were tested before, during (halfway through), and after training. The results indicated that those in the cognitive training group had increased blood flow to areas of the brain integral to reasoning and executive thought, such as seeing broad ideas from a large body of information. This demonstrates that strategy-based cognitive training has the potential to build a reserve and even reverse the negative consequences associated with age-related brain changes. 

Figure 2 (A) shows the average change in brain blood flow for the cognitive training group in areas involved in the default mode network (DMN) and central executive network (CEN). (B) Shows the average change (left) and the mean change in absolute brain blood flow (right) for both the DMN and CEN for the cognitive training condition relative to the control group.

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Author Spotlight

Sandra Bond Chapman, PhD

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

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