Nav: Home

Cognitive training enhanced innovative thinking and brain networks in older adults

November 14, 2017

Researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at UT Dallas have demonstrated in a pilot study that cognitive training improves innovative thinking, along with corresponding positive brain changes, in healthy adults over the age of 55.

The study, published recently in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, reveals that a specific strategic cognitive training program enhanced innovation in healthy adults. Performance was measured by an individual's ability to synthesize complex information and generate a multitude of high-level interpretations.

"Middle-age to older adults should feel empowered that, in many circumstances, they can reverse decline and improve innovative thinking," said Dr. Sandra Bond Chapman, Center for BrainHealth founder and chief director and lead author of the study. "Innovative cognition - the kind of thinking that reinforces and preserves complex decision-making, intellect and psychological well-being - does not need to decline with age. This study reveals that cognitive training may help enhance cognitive capacities and build resilience against decline in healthy older adults."

The SMART program - Strategic Memory Advanced Reasoning Training - was developed at the Center for BrainHealth. It focuses on learning strategies that foster attention, reasoning and broad-based perspective-taking.

Center for BrainHealth researchers conducted a randomized pilot trial and compared the effect of SMART to aerobic exercise training (known to be good for brain health) and control subjects on innovative cognition. The SMART program was conducted one hour per week for 12 weeks with 2 hours of homework each week. The 58 participants were assessed at baseline-, mid- and post-training using innovative cognition measures and functional MRI, a brain scanning technology that reveals brain activity.

"In addition to evaluating the effects of the cognitive training, this study also provided an opportunity to test a reliable assessment tool to measure innovative cognition, which has been relatively neglected due to the complexity of quantifying innovative thinking," Chapman said.

The 19 participants in the cognitive reasoning training group (SMART) showed significant gains pre- to post-training in high-quality innovation performance, improving their performance by an average of 27 percent from baseline to mid- and post-training periods on innovative cognition measures. The physical exercise and control groups did not show improvement. These positive gains in the reasoning training group corresponded to increased connectivity among brain cells in the central executive network of the brain, an area responsible for innovative thinking.

"Advances in the field of MRI are allowing us to measure different aspects of brain function," said Dr. Sina Aslan, an imaging specialist at the Center for BrainHealth. "Through this research, we are able to see that higher activity in the central executive network corresponded to improved innovation. These findings suggest that staying mentally active not only mitigates cognitive decline, but also has the potential to restore creative thinking, which is typically lost with aging."

While further research is needed to establish how to ensure the benefit persists, Chapman is encouraged by the results.

"Reasoning training offers a promising cost-effective intervention to enhance innovative cognition - one of the most valued capacities and fruitful outputs of the human mind at any age."
The work was supported by a grant from the National Institute of Health and by grants from the T. Boone Pickens Foundation, the Lyda Hill Foundation and Dee Wyly Distinguished University Endowment.


The Center for BrainHealth®, part of The University of Texas at Dallas, is a research institute committed to enhancing, protecting and restoring brain health across the lifespan. Scientific exploration at the Center for BrainHealth is leading edge, improving lives today and translating groundbreaking discoveries into practical clinical application. By delivering science-based innovations that enhance how people think, work, and live, the Center and its Brain Performance Institute™ are empowering people of all ages to unlock their brain potential. Major research areas include the use of functional and structural neuroimaging techniques to better understand the neurobiology supporting cognition and emotion in health and disease. 

Center for BrainHealth

Related Aging Articles:

Brain development and aging
The brain is a complex organ -- a network of nerve cells, or neurons, producing thought, memory, action, and feeling.
Aging gracefully in the rainforest
In an article that appears in the current issue of Evolutionary Anthropology, researchers synthesize over 15 years of theoretical and empirical findings from long-term study of the Tsimane forager-farmers.
Reversing aging now possible!
DGIST's research team identified the mechanism of reversible recovery of aging cells by inducing lysosomal activation.
Brain-aging gene discovered
Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center have discovered a common genetic variant that greatly affects normal brain aging in older adults.
Aging can be good for you (if you're a yeast)
It's a cheering thought for anyone heading towards their golden years.
How eating less can slow the aging process
New research shows why calorie restriction made mice live longer and healthier lives.
Turning back the aging clock
By boosting genes that destroy defective mitochondrial DNA, researchers can slow down and potentially reverse an important part of the aging process.
Insilico Medicine launches a deep learned biomarker of aging, Aging.AI 2.0 for testing
Insilico Medicine, Inc., a company applying latest advances in deep learning to biomarker development, drug discovery and aging research, launched Aging.AI 2.0.
Substance with the potential to postpone aging
The coenzyme NAD+ plays a main role in aging processes.
What does a healthy aging cat look like?
Just as improved diet and medical care have resulted in increased life expectancy in humans, advances in nutrition and veterinary care have increased the life span of pet cats.

Related Aging Reading:

Aging as a Spiritual Practice: A Contemplative Guide to Growing Older and Wiser
by Lewis Richmond (Author)

The bestselling author of Work as a Spiritual Practice presents a user’s life guide to aging well and making every year fulfilling and transformative.

Everything changes. For Zen Buddhist priest and meditation teacher Lewis Richmond, this fundamental Buddhist tenet is the basis for a new inner road map that emerges in the later years, charting an understanding that can bring new possibilities and a wealth of appreciation and gratitude for the life journey itself.

Aging as a Spiritual Practice is a wise, compassionate book that guides readers through the... View Details

The Grace in Aging: Awaken as You Grow Older
by Kathleen Dowling Singh (Author)

Learn to use your later years for awakening and spiritual growth.

Encouraging, inspiring, and practical, The Grace in Aging invites all those who have ever experienced spiritual longing to awaken in their twilight years. Since aging, in and of itself, does not lead to spiritual maturity, The Grace in Aging suggests and explores causes and conditions that we can create in our lives, just as we are living them, to allow awakening to unfold—transforming the predictable sufferings of aging into profound opportunities for growth in clarity, love, compassion, and peace.... View Details

Aging Well: Surprising Guideposts to a Happier Life from the Landmark Harvard Study of Adult Development
by George E. Vaillant (Author)

In a unique series of studies, Harvard University has followed 824 subjects from their teens to old age. Professor George Vaillant now uses these to illustrate the surprising factors involved in reaching happy, healthy old age. View Details

Healthy Aging: A Lifelong Guide to Your Well-Being
by Andrew Weil M.D. (Author)

In each of his widely acclaimed, best-selling books, Dr. Andrew Weil has been an authoritative and companionable guide through a uniquely effective combination of traditional and nontraditional approaches to health and healthy living. Now he gives us a book about aging that is unlike any other. Drawing on the new science of biogerontology (the biology of aging) as well as on the secrets of healthy longevity — diet, activity and attitude — Dr. Weil explains that there are a myriad of things we can do to keep our bodies and minds in good working order through all phases of life.... View Details

Mindful Aging: Embracing Your Life After 50 to Find Fulfillment, Purpose, and Joy
by Andrea Brandt (Author)

Don't let the ominous perception of "aging" - a lack of purpose, feeling irrelevant and under-used, having nothing to do - take control of you and your life.

You have the power to change how you grow older. This book will show you how.

Renowned psychotherapist and aging expert Andrea Brandt, PhD, MFT, helps you throw out the old stereotypes about getting older and move toward the welcoming new evidence that your future is alive with possibility, providing steps to thrive today and into your golden years.

The acclaimed Mindful Aging is full of exercises and tools... View Details

Aging: The Fulfillment of Life
by Henri J.M. Nouwen (Author), Walter J. Gaffney (Author)

We are all aging. We are each a spoke on the great wheel of life, part of the ongoing cycle of growth. In Aging, Henri J.M. Nouwen and Walter J. Gaffney share some moving and inspirational thoughts on what aging means (and can mean) to all of us, whether we're in our youth, middle age, or later years.

Enhanced by some eighty-five photographs depicting various scenes from life and nature, this book shows how to make the later years a source of hope rather than a time of loneliness -- a way out of darkness into the light. "Aging," the authors write, "is not a reason for... View Details

Aging Backwards: Reverse the Aging Process and Look 10 Years Younger in 30 Minutes a Day
by Miranda Esmonde-White (Author)

07.20.17-GW View Details

Aging: An Apprenticeship
by Nan Narboe (Editor)

Nan Narboe's 56 thoughtfully selected essays offer an intimate and lyrical account of aging through the decades.

Authors Judy Blume, Andrew McCarthy, Gloria Steinem, Donald Hall, David Shields, Ursula K. Le Guin and others draw from their own experiences, describing a specific decade's losses and gains to form a complex and unflinching portrait of the years from nearing fifty to ninety and beyond.

In six sections, these detail-rich essays paint an accessible picture of nearing 50, the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, the 90s and beyond with equal parts humor... View Details

Aging with Grace: What the Nun Study Teaches Us About Leading Longer, Healthier, and More Meaningful Lives
by David Snowdon (Author)

In 1986 Dr. David Snowdon, one of the world’s leading experts on Alzheimer’s disease, embarked on a revolutionary scientific study that would forever change the way we view aging—and ultimately living. Dubbed the “Nun Study” because it involves a unique population of 678 Catholic sisters, this remarkable long-term research project has made headlines worldwide with its provocative discoveries.
Yet Aging with Grace is more than a groundbreaking health and science book. It is the inspiring human story of these remarkable women—ranging in age from 74 to 106—whose... View Details

How to Care for Aging Parents, 3rd Edition: A One-Stop Resource for All Your Medical, Financial, Housing, and Emotional Issues
by Virginia Morris (Author), Jennie Chin Hansen RN MSN FAAN (Foreword)

“The bible of eldercare”—ABC World News. “An indispensable book”—AARP. “A compassionate guide of encyclopedic proportion”—The Washington Post. And, winner of a Books for a Better Life Award. How to Care for Aging Parents is the best and bestselling book of its kind, and its author, Virginia Morris, is the go-to person on eldercare for the media, appearing on Oprah, TODAY, and Good Morning America, among many other outlets.

How to Care for Aging Parents is an authoritative, clear, and comforting source of advice and... View Details

Best Science Podcasts 2018

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2018. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

The Consequences Of Racism
What does it mean to be judged before you walk through the door? What are the consequences? This week, TED speakers delve into the ways racism impacts our lives, from education, to health, to safety. Guests include poet and writer Clint Smith, writer and activist Miriam Zoila Pérez, educator Dena Simmons, and former prosecutor Adam Foss.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#465 How The Nose Knows
We've all got a nose but how does it work? Why do we like some smells and not others, and why can we all agree that some smells are good and some smells are bad, while others are dependant on personal or cultural preferences? We speak with Asifa Majid, Professor of Language, Communication and Cultural Cognition at Radboud University, about the intersection of culture, language, and smell. And we level up on our olfactory neuroscience with University of Pennsylvania Professor Jay Gottfried.