Brain-training for those with Alzheimer’s Disease?

Computerized “brain training” is supposed to be cross-training for the mind: If you master the specific challenges in the training software, your increased cognitive skills should carry over into the rest of your life, from making it easier to remember your grocery list to being better at creative endeavors like your tax returns (kidding!).

Last year, a meta-analysis (comprehensive review) of the professional literature on brain-training programs concluded, “…memory training programs appear to produce short-term, specific training effects that do not generalize.” In other words, as an article in The New Yorker warned, don’t spend money on a brain-training program in hopes of turning from Homer Simpson into Albert Einstein. However, the repetition in such programs could be potentially be useful in specific circumstances, such as helping Alzheimer’s patients retain some recognition of faces and places.

A brain-training system called MemVu, which appears that it might fulfill this promise, is now soliciting funding on IndieGoGo for enhancements to its system. What makes MemVu unique and possibly more useful than most general brain-training programs is that it allows users or their caregivers to upload personal photos, thus reinforcing familiar faces and landscapes for Alzheimer’s patients as they play the games. They also include features to help with currency recognition and way finding.

MemVu is already available to individuals and medical institutions for $14.95 a month, with annual subscription discounts. (We have to caution caveat emptor; we have not tried it.) As a lower-cost, lower-tech alternative to reinforcing memory for faces, you could consider creating a deck of cards with family photos, by using services like Shutterfly.