Two years ago, dozens of academics got together to state that—as the New Yorker puts it—"playing brain games had been shown to improve little more than the ability to play brain games." That declaration surely disappointed many app-loving grandparents, and a new study presented over the weekend may prove it false. The study, which looked at nearly 3,000 seniors over a 10-year period, claims that 11 to 14 hours of "speed training" may reduce the risk of developing dementia a decade later by 48%, the Wall Street Journal reports. It's a result that no other type of brain game—or anything else—has been able to achieve. “If you can reduce the chance of getting dementia by nearly 50% with this, that’s huge,” says an expert at the Cleveland Clinic not involved with the study.
Speed training uses a computer program to get people to quickly identify images in the center of their field of vision and match them with images on the periphery. Researchers can't explain how a few hours of training can have such a profound effect a decade later. Reuters reports it's also unclear if the study, which started with healthy participants, would have the same result with people already at risk for dementia. The study hasn't been peer-reviewed or published yet, but the lead researcher, who recommends speed training starting at age 50, says “the potential to benefit is great and the risks are none to minimal." (Another study claims to have found a delicious way to fight dementia.)