Associate Professor Michael Valenzuela
Computerised brain training, or I’ll just call it brain training, involves doing repetitive cognitive exercises, over and over again, on computer. As you get better, the exercises become more challenging, so that over time you’re improving your abilities on these different exercises. So, the analogy is kind of the brain gym. The same way you go to the gym and exercise different muscle groups, [with] brain training on computer, you’re exercising different cognitive skills, which over time lead to benefits.
计算机化的大脑训练，或者我将其称为大脑训练，涉及在计算机上一遍又一遍地进行重复的认知练习。 随着你做得越来越好，练习变得更具挑战性，所以随着时间的推移，你在这些不同的练习中提高你的能力。 所以，这种大脑训练就好比是在健身房中锻炼大脑。 在电脑上进行大脑训练，就像你去健身房锻炼不同的肌肉群，你正在以同样的方式锻炼不同的认知技能，随着时间的推移，从而获得好处。
There’s enormous interest in brain training all around the world, and one of the more recent contributions, from my group, was trying to make sense of the hundreds of studies in the area. We decided to focus on clinical trials, and we integrated the findings from more than 50 clinical trials, thousands of individuals, and there was very clear evidence that brain training, as a whole, is effective for cognitive function in older people free of dementia, but also that there are some factors that are very important and determine those outcomes.
我们对世界各地的大脑训练有极大的兴趣，我组最近的一项贡献是试图理解该地区的数百个研究。 我们决定专注于临床试验，我们整合了来自50多个临床试验，数千个人的研究结果，有非常清楚的证据表明，大脑训练作为一个整体对于老年人免于认知症的认知功能是有效的， 但也有一些因素是非常重要的，并决定这些结果。
One of the factors that really jumped out at us in this analysis, as being critical to the effectiveness of brain training, was the context or how you were doing it. If you were doing it at home by yourself, unfortunately there was no consistent effect. We didn’t really see any improvement in those individuals above the type of placebo. If you were doing it in a centre under supervision, we found that the effect was quite robust. So I think the analogy is like, if you were to go to a gym for the first time, would you be expected to use the equipment in a useful way? Probably not. I think it’s really important to have someone there, particularly at the beginning, to introduce you to this technology and then get the most out of it.
在这个分析中真正跳出来的因素之一是，对大脑训练的有效性至关重要的是内容或你是如何做的。 如果你在家里自己做，不幸的是没有一致的效果。 我们没有看到这些个人以上的安慰剂类型的任何改善。 如果你在一个中心里有人监督的情况下做的话，我们发现效果是相当强大。所以我认为做个类比，如果你第一次去健身房，你会被期望以一种有用的方式使用设备？可能不会。 我认为真正重要的是，特别是刚开始，能有人在这里向你介绍一下这个技术，然后你充分利用它。
What the evidence shows in terms of cognitive training and cognition in older people, is that it is effective on general cognitive outcomes and in specific cognitive areas, if you’ve been doing it in a supervised environment. In that case, we know that it’s effective during, and up to, stopping training. What is unclear is that, if you stop training, how long those benefits can persist. And obviously, if we’re talking about dementia, we’re talking about risk for many number of years. So we don’t know yet whether cognitive training, or brain training, can lower your risk for dementia or the development of dementia. That’s for future studies. But we can say that it’s good for your cognitive health, in older people, and we’re also starting to understand what are the brain changes triggered by so-called brain training.
So what happens in the brain, in different types of brain training, is quite a new area, because we need to combine clinical trials in brain training with neuroimaging, to understand what’s changing inside our brains. We just recently completed a study that looked at this very topic. It was called the SMART trial. And what the SMART trial shows is that, if you’re doing brain training as an older person, it increases the connectivity between two important parts of the brain. One is the hippocampus, the memory centre, and second is the frontal lobe, which is the planning and problem- solving part of the brain. It strengthens that connectivity, and that strengthening of a connectivity was related to, and even explained, the improvement in memory function in those individuals. So we’re starting to get an idea of, not just that brain training can be effective for cognitive function, particularly memory, but also the type of neuroplasticity that may be underlying that.
所以，在不同类型的大脑训练中，在大脑中发生的事情是一个新的领域，因为我们需要将脑训练中的临床试验与神经影像学相结合，以了解大脑中发生了什么变化。 我们刚刚完成了一个这类主题的研究。 它被称为SMART试验。 SMART试验显示，如果你像大人一样进行大脑训练，它会增加大脑两个重要部分之间的连接性。 一个是海马，记忆中心；第二个是额叶，这是大脑的规划和解决问题的部分。 它加强了连接性，并且解释了连接的加强与那些个体的记忆功能的改善相关， 因此，我们开始得到一个想法，不只是大脑训练可以有效的认知功能，特别是记忆，但也可能是潜在的神经可塑性的类型。
I think this is kind of a bit of a golden age for brain training, because we’re getting past the question, “Does it work?” to “How does it work, how can we make it work better?” So I think there will be a lot of interest in imaging studies, to understand mechanisms of change, and looking at the potential and limits of neuroplasticity, from this intervention, and also, how we can actually implement it in the broad scale out there in the community, to deliver real-world outcomes, like delaying dementia, or like slowing the progression from, say, being at home independent to being in an institution, so I think there’s that applied very real-world research, and also basic science understanding of the mechanisms.