New research finds brain training can reduce falls risk among seniors

Mar 21, 2023
A decade-long study has discovered that participating in moderate cognitive training reduces falls and incidence in older adults. Source: Getty Images.

Recent findings from an extensive decade-long study have found that engaging in a moderate amount of a specific type of computerised cognitive training offered by Posit Science’s BrainHQ app can significantly decrease the likelihood of falls and incidence among older adults.

As we age, our risk of falls increases significantly. Falls can lead to serious injuries, including hip fractures, head injuries, and even death.

Nearly 1 in 3 older Australians have experienced a fall in the past 12 months, with 1 in 5 required hospitalisations. Although not all falls result in injury, the incident can often result in a person losing confidence in their own abilities and withdrawing from life to avoid the risk of suffering a fall again.

Slower brain speed has been found to increase fall risk. The brain slows down gradually from your 20s, impacting processing speed and reaction time. Multiple studies show slower processing speed leads to higher fall risk and reduced mobility. However, brain exercises can improve processing speed.

CEO of Posit Science, Dr. Henry Mahncke says, “while many believe that falls among older adults stem only from physical failures, such as tripping or legs giving way, these new 10-year results from the ACTIVE Study researchers show – for the first time – that rewiring the brain can help people stay on their feet and reduce the number of real-world falls by at-risk seniors.”

Previous research indicated that BrainHQ exercises can enhance mobility, balance, and gait, which are critical fall risk measures. Recent findings from a comprehensive trial verify that these exercises reduce the likelihood of real-world falls.

“Think about losing your balance and starting to fall,” Mahncke said.

“Your head suddenly begins to move through space in a downward direction, alerting your brain’s visual and balance systems that you are about to fall. By speeding up the brain, you get extra time (measurable in split-seconds) to process that information and regain your footing. Extra time can make the difference between staying on your feet – or crashing to the ground.”

The ACTIVE study involved 2,802 older adults who were randomly assigned to a control group or one of three cognitive training groups. They received an hour of training, twice a week for five weeks.

The findings from the study showed that the speed-of-processing group had a significant 31 per cent lower risk of falls in the high-risk group, while the other two interventions had no significant effect.

Brain or cognitive training is a type of exercise that involves challenging your brain to improve cognitive function, including memory, attention, and decision-making. This type of training can be particularly beneficial for preventing falls because it can help improve your ability to process information and respond quickly to changes in your environment.

In addition to brain training apps, there are a number of practical measures over 60s can utilise to improve cognitive function. Some of these include:

  1. Dual-task training: Dual-task training involves practising multiple tasks at the same time, such as walking while carrying an object or talking on the phone. This can help improve your ability to multitask and prevent falls when performing everyday activities.
  2. Reaction time training: Reaction time training involves practising exercises that require you to quickly react to changes in your environment, such as catching a ball or stepping over an obstacle. This can help improve your ability to respond quickly to prevent falls.
  3. Visual-spatial training: Visual-spatial training involves exercises that improve your ability to interpret and respond to visual cues. This can help you navigate through your environment more safely.
  4. Executive function training: Executive function training involves exercises that improve your ability to plan, organize, and make decisions. Executive function training can help you navigate complex environments more safely.


IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your personal health requirements or existing medical conditions. That means it’s not personalised health advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a health-related decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get professional medical advice.

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