The 10+ most utilized cognitive stimulation programs

The 10+ most utilized cognitive stimulation programs

10 Min.
By the Bitbrain team
July 31, 2018

Cognitive stimulation is a fundamental strategy for the improvement and rehabilitation of cognitive capabilities and executive functions such as memory, attention and processing speed. Do you want to know which are the most utilized? This post approaches, from a practical point of view, the most employed techniques and programs such as the Esteve and Rubio workbooks, brain training games such as Luminosity and Elevate, and new neurotechnologies such as Elevvo.

What is cognitive stimulation? 

Cognitive stimulation (CE) refers to the set of techniques, strategies and materials to improve performance and effectiveness of cognitive capabilities and executive functions such as memory, attention, language, reasoning and planning, among others. Stimulation generates changes in brain plasticity, understood as the capability of the nervous system to change its structure and functionality as reaction and adaptation to the diversity of the surroundings.

The objective of this stimulation is to improve the cognitive functionality of the capabilities and abilities that are still preserved. This would be the case of people that wish to keep mentally active, such as healthy populations of all age groups, from school-aged children and adolescents to adults, athletes, and older adults that do not present any age-related decline or pathology.

However, regarding cognitive stimulation, the objective is to recover those capabilities that have suffered decline or deficit, reestablishing their functionality. Rehabilitation is a therapeutic intervention for people that suffer from any pathology that includes mild cognitive impairment such as depression, fibromyalgia, ADHD or older adults that manifest age-related cognitive decline. For the latter, memory is usually the capability that is affected first (more information about depression and its cognitive rehabilitation).

What cognitive capabilities can be improved?  

There are several abilities that can be worked on through different techniques and programs for mental stimulation and improve cognition and quality of life. Some of the most important are:

  • Attention: capability of generating, selecting, directing and maintaining adequate activation levels to process relevant information.

  • Perception: codes and coordinates the different elemental sensations to provide them with meaning.

  • Comprehension: capability of understanding, analyzing and thinking about the information received.

  • Memory: registers, stores and elicits the different experiences, which could be ideas, images, events, etc.

  • Language: system of linguistic signs that enables us to communicate, orally or in writing.

  • Processing speed: establishes the relationship between cognitive execution and invested time. Enables the processing of information in a fast and automatic manner.

  • Orientation: capability of being aware of oneself and of the surroundings.

  • Reasoning: enables problem solving, extraction of conclusions and learn in a conscious manner from the events, in such a way that causal and logical relationships can be established.

  • Learning: relatively stable transformations in behavior, caused by different experiences that give place to the acquisition of new knowledge and abilities.

  • Praxis: capability of executing voluntary movements, intended and organized to accomplish a plan or reach an objective. 

  • Gnosia: capability of recognizing previously learned information from our senses.

  • Executive control: complex mental activities responsible for integrating, organizing and coordinating the remaining cognitive capabilities.

Infographic Cognitive Capabilities

¿Who can work on and strengthen their cognitive abilities? 

Mental capability training through techniques and programs for cognitive stimulation can be applied to any age group and population. The difference lies within the objective:

  • Healthy children, adolescents, students, adults and older adults: stimulation is directed to maintain their cognitive capabilities at good levels and foster active and healthy aging, especially during old age.

  • People with mental pathologies: people affected by pathologies that include cognitive deterioration such as depression, ADHD, fibromyalgia, or brain damage among others (more information on cognitive rehabilitation for depression and ADHD). In older adults that start to manifest the first signs of dementia, the objective is to slow down this deterioration (more information on people with dementia and its cognitive rehabilitation).

  • Athletes, senior executives, armed forces and other professionals: this population can also benefit from cognitive training to improve and strengthen their cognitive capabilities, with the objective of maintaining them at optimum levels and meet the high professional and work demands (more information on high cognitive performance).

What types of cognitive stimulation therapies and techniques are available?

Nowadays there is a variety of techniques and programs for cognitive stimulation according to the improvement or recovery needs of each person. There are two types: techniques oriented to utilize and work on cognitive capabilities, such as cognitive stimulation workbooks, brain training games, and online programs; and techniques oriented to improve the functionality of brain areas responsible for cognitive capabilities, such as neurotechnology. In both cases the objective is to improve and maintain cognitive capability.

Cognitive stimulation exercise workbooks:

Classical cognitive stimulation, based on pencil and paper,  that works on functions and capabilities such as memory, attention, orientation, reasoning, problem solving, etc. Available in different levels of difficulty so that, in function of the cognitive development level presented, can be carried out by people of different ages and deterioration degrees, generating a habit. Some popular links are presented next.

  • Esteve cognitive stimulation exercise workbooks: four workbooks are available, in different difficulty levels, for free on the internet. These are directed to patients diagnosed with slight cognitive deterioration (SCD) and mild to moderate dementia who need to work on attention, memory, language, perception, reasoning, calculation, etc. There are also recommendations on how to complete the exercises.

  • Cognitive stimulation exercise workbooks to reinforce memory from Consorci Sanitari Integral (CSI): freely downloadable on the internet, is directed to be employed during individual sessions with people diagnosed with early stage dementia, although can also be adapted to personal interests and preferences. A single session can combine exercises that work on different cognitive functions: memory, verbal expression, visual perception, reasoning) and table games (dominoes, cards, parchis).

  • Rubio cognitive stimulation exercise workbooks: available from its website, these workbooks contain activities oriented to reinforce and potentialize cognitive performance in capabilities such as language, memory, calculation, reading and writing, attention-concentration, praxis and gnosia. These are distributed in three levels, in function of the cognitive deterioration presented (no deterioration/mild deterioration, mild-moderate deterioration, and moderate-severe deterioration).

Brain training games:

Applications for cell phones, tablets and computers that can be utilized anytime, anywhere. These applications work on different cognitive capabilities and executive functions such as attention, reasoning, language, memory and calculation, among others. Usually enable the adjustment of the difficulty level and creates a rankin with the scores of all people that have utilized the application.

  • Lumosity: application that integrates more than 25 games that are adapted to the individual abilities of each user. Directed to work on five cognitive functions such as memory, attention, mental flexibility, processing speed and problem solving..

  • Elevate Brain Training: offers the possibility of customizing the training program, and works on capabilities such as reading speed, concentration, memory and mathematical aptitudes. As positive results are obtained, the difficulty of the exercises increases. The only disadvantage of this application is that it is currently only available in English.

  • NeuroNation: 23 exercises directed to work on and improve different cognitive capabilities, following a customized plan according to the necessities of each person or randomly selecting games. Offers the possibility of monitoring results and comparing them with other users.

Mobile Brain Training Games

Online platforms for cognitive stimulation exercise 

Online programs that provide dynamic activities for rehabilitation and stimulation of mental capabilities. Many of these platforms are used by professionals who, along with other techniques and more traditional therapies, complement the interventions oriented to improve those areas that present difficulties.

  • NeuronUP: directed to professionals that work in rehabilitation and cognitive stimulation processes, who wish to integrate this tool with their traditional methods. Combined numerous exercises and resources that exercise basic cognitive functions such as daily life activities and social abilities. Besides, the online format offers the possibility of utilizing pen and paper to complete the exercises.

  • Kwido: platform designed for the cognitive stimulation of older adults that can be utilized at home or during consultation with professionals. Integrates thousands of games adapted to the cognitive level of each person, and works on capabilities such as attention, calculation, language, memory, orientation, executive functions, among many others. The professionals can obtain real time information on the evolution of the general cognitive index, emotional state, self-assessment, etc.

  • Mementia: cognitive stimulation tool developed by Cognitiva, directed to the prevention and treatment of healthy people, retirees, those with age-related memory problems, people with mild cognitive deterioration and mild to moderate dementia.Configured with simple games that enable real time measurement of the evolution of the cognitive index of ach user and their emotional state, among other factors.

Regarding to computer games, they offer the possibility of adapting the difficulty levels to each user, there is limited evidence based on the transference of the learning to cognitively close tasks and daily life activities. However, these video games are widely used as cognitive rehabilitation exercises because they are easily accessible and can be employed practically anywhere and anytime.

Neurotechnology for cognitive stimulation

Recently new paradigms are being employed to produce neuroplastic changes in brain areas related to cognitive performance, to optimize functionality. These procedures use new technologies to record the brain activity of each person, adapting the necessary interventions (individualization) to produce the desired changes in brain neuroplasticity, which are related to rehabilitation and improvement of cognitive capabilities such as attention, memory and processing speed. 

  • Elevvo: neurotechnology developed by Bitbrain for cognitive improvement, and included within the group of non-pharmacological treatments for rehabilitation and stimulation of the cognitive capabilities and executive functions such as memory, attention, concentration, reasoning, decision making, etc. A series of cognitive trainings can be completed, with pre- and post- follow-up that evaluates progress and the brain changes that support cognitive improvement. This technology is adapted to medical contexts, to wellness and older adults , and to high performance environments.

Neurotechnology Cognitive Stimulation

 What is a cognitive stimulation program? 

A cognitive stimulation therapy is a set of tools and techniques that aim at improving wellness and quality of life of people. It is an integral intervention that includes cognitive, behavioral, affective and physiological strategies. The objective is to create a habit of working on those areas that are compromised or that people need to improve to maintain functionally active in an autonomous manner.

An example of cognitive training program is the PACID Program, Integral Cognitive Activation Program for people with Alzheimer-type dementia. It is an integral program that, through cognitive, physiological and emotional stimulation and considering the deterioration level produced by dementia, maintains cognitive abilities and executive functions at adequate levels, preventing behavioral problems, controlling emotional states and fostering psychoeducative support.

Another program is the Integral Program for active aging of Castilla y León. It has the objective of preventing dependence and promoting active aging, contributing to improve the quality of life of people. This program is carried out in groups and promotes the acquisition of knowledge, attitudes and abilities for the optimization of health, the development of cognitive capabilities and executive functions as well as of the entire psychic and physical spheres, promoting adequate levels of interaction with the surroundings. Includes workshops on the promotion of physical activity, of cognitive stimulation, and capacitation for daily life activities, creativity and abilities.

Some cognitive stimulation materials: 

Here is a summary of the different materials available for cognitive stimulation activities. On one hand, there are materials to work on cognitive capabilities themselves (workbooks, games and online platforms), and on the other hand, there are tools to work on the brain areas that support these capabilities (neurotechnology):

Techniques Cognitive Stimulation Brain Training

Nowadays there are multiple tools and stimulation techniques to help work on the different cognitive capabilities and executive functions. Moreover, they are easily accessible to all people and many offer feedback on the progress achieved. Aiming at the improvement of wellbeing and quality of life, these tools can be integrated within wide programs that address not only cognitive capabilities but also behavioral and emotional aspects and healthy habits.

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