In a small study of older adults, published in the February 2018 issue of the professional journal Neurobiology of Aging, researchers at the Center for Brain Health at the University of Texas, Dallas, looked at the effects of Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training (SMART), a higher-order cognitive training program, on cognitive processing speed and lower-order cognitive functions. They found that using higher-order approaches (such as creative thinking, analysis, critical thinking, decision-making, and problem-solving) improves processing speed and slows down the decline of lower-order cognitive functions associated with normal aging, such as memory and comprehension.

Fifty-seven study participants—normally healthy men and women ranging in age from 56 to 71—were divided into three groups: a cognitive training group, a physical exercise group, and a wait-listed group. A physical exercise group was part of the study because aerobic exercise has been linked to changes in the brain that lead to improvements in cognitive processing speed. Over the course of the 12-week study, this group exceeded standard recommendations for getting at least 150 minutes of exercise a week. Those participants who received cognitive training were introduced to SMART strategies in hourly, once-a-week sessions over the course of 12 weeks, and encouraged to use these strategies while performing mental tasks throughout each day. They also received additional relevant homework assignments.

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Published on Psychology Today February 7, 2018