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4 November 2015

Brain training and epilepsy

Online brain training keeps older minds sharp and helps with everyday tasks such as cooking and shopping, according to a new experiment launched on the BBC's Bang Goes The Theory programme.

But researchers at Epilepsy Society say that when it comes to people with temporal lobe epilepsy, traditional memory aids are better than online training.

Psychologists at the UK's leading epilepsy medical charity have been investigating whether computerised brain training offers additional benefits in memory rehabilitation over traditional methods.

But the study showed that memory aids such as diaries, phone reminders, apps and visual imagery to recall names proved to be more useful in memory training than a brain training website offering online games of  memory, problem solving, attention and processing speed.

Memory problems are a common problem in epilepsy, particularly for those with temporal lobe epilepsy, affecting studying, work, family life, confidence and self-esteem.

Memory problems

The study at Epilepsy Society, with funding support from Epilepsy Action, looked at 77 people with temporal lobe epilepsy who were complaining of memory problems. Participants ranged from 19-67 in age, and 40 of them had left temporal lobe epilepsy. Twenty five had been seizure free for at least a year, 13 following surgery. All but four of the group were taking anti-epileptic medication.

Participants received either traditional memory training, computerised brain training or both traditional brain training and computerised brain training. The effects of the intervention were contrasted to a no intervention control group.

Dr Pam Thompson, head of psychology at Epilepsy Society said: 'Our study provides support for the efficacy of traditional memory rehabilitation but no evidence that the internet brain training programme afforded additional benefits.'

The BBC experiment conducted by researchers at Kings College, London, involved nearly 7,000 people aged 50 and over. As far as investigators were aware, none of them had memory or cognition problems.

Find out more

Find out how our free epilepsy smartphone app allows you to set an alarm to remind you when to take your medication.