For the study 36 sedentary adults ages 56-75 years were randomly put into either a cognitive training or a physical training group. They then followed a training programme for 12 weeks while the scientists monitored the results of their brain activity.
They found that aerobic exercise group showed increases in immediate and delayed memory performance that were not seen in the cognitive training group. The randomised trial is the first to compare cerebral blood flow and cerebrovascular reactivity data obtained via MRI.
“Many adults without dementia experience slow, continuous and significant age-related changes in the brain, specifically in the areas of memory and executive function, such as planning and problem-solving,” said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, study lead author, founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth, and Dee Wyly Distinguished University Professor. “We can lose 1-2 percent in global brain blood flow every decade, starting in our 20s. To see almost an 8 percent increase in brain blood flow in the cognitive training group may be seen as regaining decades of brain health since blood flow is linked to neural health.”
Those who participated in cognitive training demonstrated positive changes in executive brain function as well as a 7.9 percent increase in global brain flow compared to study counterparts who participated in an aerobic exercise program.