One major downside of aging is that mental health can start to decline. We don’t like it, but we accept it because what else can be done? A lot, actually! According to new research, you can actually strengthen the brain and help it function like a younger one. And the way to do this is with cognitive training.

A study published in Neurobiology of Aging observed 57 adults between the age of 56 and 71. These participants were divided into three groups: cognitive training, physical exercise, or a wait-listed control group.

Those in the cognitive training were observed over a 12-week period and they worked on different strategies, including:

  • Focusing on relevant information and filtering out less relevant data
  • Encouraging deeper thinking
  • Considering diverse interpretations, solutions and perspectives

With functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), researchers measured brain activity before, during and after the study.

The fMRI results showed that the adults who had cognitive training “showed a significant increase in the association between reaction time and frontal lobe activity.” In short, reaction times increased even though the frontal lobe didn’t have to exert itself as much.

Essentially, cognitive training was seen to help the brain perform better without using as much energy, making cognitive training a potential way to develop a stronger and more efficient brain – something we probably all want to take with us as we grow older.

A lead author of the study, Dr. Michael Motes, shared that “It is thrilling for me, as a cognitive neuroscientist, who has previously studied age-related cognitive decline, to find that cognitive training has the potential to strengthen the aging brain to function more like a younger brain.”