Can we keep our cognitive abilities sharp by playing computer games such as the Nintendo Brain Age, Mindweavers's MindFit or the Brain Fitness Program from Posit? The manufacturers are convinced we can, and have carried out several studies to try and prove the point.
In one study of 465 people aged over 65 years, the Brain Fit Program - mainly available in the US - helped the participants improve their auditory memory over an eight to 10 week period.
In a separate study of 121 elderly volunteers, the Mindfit game seemed to generally help cognitive abilities after 24 sessions compared to a standard computer game.
Both these studies are unpublished, and doctors who specialise in dementia are not convinced. Instead, they see mental decline as multi-factorial, with exercise, good health and an interest in life as being important ways of keeping it at bay.
(Source: British Medical Journal, 2008; 336: 246-8).