Study: A Dozen Cognitively, Physically Stimulating Sessions Can Improve Cognition

The results of a new analysis show that just 12 to 14 doses of stimulation for the body and mind may be all that is needed to boost brain function.

An international team of investigators has determined that just 12 to 14 sessions of activities that benefit that body and mind might be all that is needed to observe an improvement in cognition, according to a study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association.­­­­1

Until now, the number of sessions or “doses” needed for optimal effect has been unknown, according to the investigators.1

Activities related to cognitive stimulation, nutrition, and physical activity are all known to be good ways to prevent Alzheimer disease (AD) and dementia.1

“In pharmacological studies, every effort is made to define an optimal treatment dose needed to observe the expected effects,“ Sylvie Belleville, PhD, a neuropsychologist and researcher at the research centere of the Université de Montréal affiliated Institut universitaire de gériatrie de Montréal and the team’s leader, said in a statement. “This is rarely done in non-pharmacological studies, especially those on the prevention of cognitive decline, where little information is available to identify this dose.”1

The study is based on a secondary analysis of data from the 3-year Multidomain Alzheimer Preventative Trial and looked at 749 individuals who received a range of interventions aimed at preventing cognitive decline.1

These included cognitive stimulation, dietary advice, and physical activity, to improve or maintain cognitive and physical abilities.1

Investigators noted that individuality should be considered when determining the optimal treatment dose.1

They evaluated the effects of the session in terms of each individual’s age, cognitive and physical condition, education level, and gender.1

The relationship between the number of sessions each received and their cognitive improvement was then analyzed.1

“Defining an optimal number of treatment sessions is therefore crucial,” Belleville said.1

“Proposing too few sessions will produce no noticeable improvement effects, but too many sessions [are] also undesirable, as these interventions are costly. They are costly both for the individual who follows the treatments, in terms of time and involvement, and for the organization offering these treatments, Belleville said.”1

The main results show an increase with the sessions followed by a plateau in improvement after 12 to 14 sessions.1

Investigators concluded that offering more than 12 to 14 sessions of treatment does not mean better results. However, individuals with lower levels of education or more risk factors for cognitive decline did benefit from more sessions.1

There are approximately 5.8 million individuals in the United States who have AD and other related dementia, including about 5.6 million individuals aged 65 years and older and about 200,000 under the aged 60 years with younger-onset AD, according to the CDC.2

By 2026, the number of cases of AD is expected to rise to approximately 14 million, with minority populations the most affected.2

Reference

1. Dementia: how to prevent cognitive decline. EurekAlert. News release. January 20, 2022. Accessed January 21, 2022. https://www.eurekalert.org/news-releases/940654

2. Alzheimer’s disease and healthy aging. CDC. Updated August 20, 2019. Accessed January 21, 2022. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/Alz-Greater-Risk.html#:~:text=Current%20estimates%20are%20that%20about,65%20with%20younger%2Donset%20Alzheimer's