Dementia is a devastating disease. It leads not only to the lost of the ability to plan, remember things and behave appropriately, but also to the decline of motor skills. Up till now, there is no drug to treat dementia. However, some lifestyle changes can delay the progress of this disease and even weaken its symptoms.
A recent small European study discovered that one of such lifestyle changes is a combined cognitive and motor training that seems to improve both the cognitive and physical skills of significantly impaired dementia people.
But how can you motivate people with dementia to follow the training? The researchers found a simple solution. They developed fun exercises in a form of a fitness game. The game is based on the Senso training platform which consists of a screen with the game software and a floor panel with 4 fields that measure steps, weight displacement and balance. The users attempt to complete a sequence of movements with their feet as indicated on the screen, enabling them to train both physical movement and cognitive function simultaneously.
The study showed that 8 weeks of regular training (15 minutes 3 times a week) turned to enhance cognitive skills, such as attention, concentration, memory and orientation by people aged 85 years with severe dementia symptoms. Moreover, this fitness game improved reaction time of the participants which is very important in older age.
The next step of the researchers is to investigate whether the same results could be achieved in people with mild cognitive impairment—a precursor of dementia. The aim is to use MRI scans to monitor more closely the processes in the brain that are responsible for the cognitive and physical improvement.
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