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Tablet-Computer Use can Boost Seniors’ Brains

Update Date: Jul 09, 2014 11:37 AM EDT

Brain training can keep the aging mind sharp. In a new study, researchers examined the benefits of tablet computer use on older people's cognitive skills. The team from the Center for Vital Longevity at the University of Texas at Dallas found that when seniors tried new activities, particularly tablet computing, their cognitive vitality was enhanced, which could help stave off age-related dementia.

In this study, headed by graduate student Micaela Chan, the team recruited 54 older adults between the ages of 60 and 90. The seniors were divided into three groups. In the first group, participants were given an iPad and received training in using the tablet. They spent an average of more than 15 hours a week for 10 weeks straight. The other two groups acted as the control groups. One of the groups required participants to carry out low-cognitively demanding tasks that did not involve skill acquisition. In the other group, the participants socialized with one another.

The researchers administered cognitive tests before and after the experiment. The tests measured the seniors' mental agility. The researchers compared the results and found that people from the iPad group had improvements in their episodic memory and processing speed.

"Although some individuals in the two control groups also experienced some cognitive improvements, the iPad group showed significantly more improvement over time," Chan concluded according to Medical Xpress.

"At the time we planned this study, we weren't sure we could improve cognition with iPad training. We are delighted the results turned out positively," Dr. Denise Park, senior author of the study, added. "Key to this study, however, is the notion that regardless of whether iPad training improved cognition, we were equipping older people with lifetime skills to manage many aspects of the aging process, and that they would leave the study better equipped to face the process of aging."

The study, "Training Older Adults to Use Tablet Computers: Does It Enhance Cognitive Function?" was published in The Gerontologist.

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