7.25.2004

In the future, doctors may be prescribing mental calisthenics along with medication for their patients with Alzheimer's disease.

New research out of the University of Miami School of Medicine suggests exercises that train the brain could help those in the disease's early stages retain or, in some cases, temporarily regain their ability to do everyday tasks.

And those skills could allow them to lead normal lives longer and stay out of nursing homes -- results that study co-author Dr. David Loewenstein says signal promise for the future of what's called "cognitive retraining" or "cognitive rehabilitation."

"I think the writing is on the wall that retraining will become a big part of Alzheimer's disease treatment. If we can delay decline for six months or a year, the quality of life the person has and the savings to society are enormous," said Loewenstein, who developed the training regime with Dr. Amarilis Acevedo.

Both are clinical neuropsychologists based at the Wien Center for Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders at Mount Sinai Hospital in Miami Beach, where Loewenstein is the research director

Twenty-five Alzheimer's patients had retraining sessions twice a week for 12 weeks in their clinic. Drills included ways to associate names with faces, how to make change, "memory notebooks" that tracked appointments and exercises designed to increase the speed at which the brain processes information. At the same time, a control group of 19 patients did mental stimulation activities such as crossword puzzles and computer games -- the things commonly used to help Alzheimer's patients and older adults with memory problems >> Read More




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