Even a modest benefit from computerized cognitive training could have major implications due to the large number of persons with mild cognitive impairment.
The effect size for the benefit of computerized cognitive training on global cognition in mild cognitive impairment was 0.38. To put that in context, the effect size of the benefit of medications for Alzheimer’s disease was 0.23 (Ströhle et al., 2015), of memantine for cognitive function in persons with Alzheimer’s disease was 0.27 (Matsunaga et al., 2015), and of the combination of cholinesterase inhibitors and memantine for moderate to severe Alzheimer’s disease was also 0.27 (Schmidt et al., 2015).
While computerized cognitive training was helpful for mild cognitive impairment, cholinesterase inhibitors do not seem to be effective for this condition (Tricco et al., 2013; Russ and Morling, 2012).
Mild cognitive impairment is, to some extent, a precursor to dementia. Further research will have to show whether or not computerized cognitive training in persons with mild cognitive impairment has a role in delaying the clinical manifestations of dementia.
In dementia, the benefit of computerized cognitive training was weak. Perhaps computerized cognitive training needs to be implemented at an earlier stage in cognitive decline?
Some newer technologies like virtual reality and the Nintendo Wii may turn out to have special roles in persons with neurocognitive disorders, including those with dementia.
Further research is needed to understand why computerized cognitive training did not help processing speed, which was surprising. Also why it did not help executive dysfunction, which is an important predictor of functional decline.