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Improvement in Older Adults' Cognitive Function and Manual Dexterity Due to Repetitive Training

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Older adults, who were trained at home daily for 12 weeks using a digital trail-making peg test device developed by researchers at the University of Tsukuba improved their manual dexterity and cognitive functioning.

Tsukuba, Japan—Among the many harmful effects of aging, a decline in hand dexterity can lead to difficulties in the performance of daily activities, such as writing, cooking, gardening, craftwork, and the ability to open bottles and jars. These detrimental, aging-associated changes are observed in both men and women, especially in those older than 65 years of age. Preserving hand dexterity is therefore essential for day-to-day living among older adults. In this study, we hypothesize that home-based repetitive manual dexterity training is capable to selectively improve cognitive function. In addition, we examined brain activation (cognitive load) patterns during the performance of manual dexterity training.

In total, 57 elderly adults (mean age: 73.6 ± 6.1 years; male: 31.6%, female: 68.4%) residing in Ibaraki Prefecture were randomly divided into 28 intervention groups (mean age: 72.9 ± 5.6 years; male: 32.1%, female: 67.9%) and 29 control groups (mean age: 74.4 ± 6.5 years; male: 31%, female: 69%). The intervention group performed manual dexterity training daily for 12 weeks. It was found that the intensity of the level of training undertaken positively correlated with the amount of active blood hemoglobin that could be measured in the prefrontal cortex. Among the cognitive functions, executive function was observed to considerably improve in the intervention group compared with the control group. Other cognitive functions did not considerably improve; however, the effect size of these functions was higher in the intervention group than in the control group. Therefore, the findings of this study suggest that home-based manual dexterity training can improve hand dexterity and cognitive functioning in older adults.

This work was supported by a collaborative research grant from NEWCOME Inc., KAITEKI Institute Inc., JSPS KAKENHI (grant number: 21F21110), COI STREAM launched in 2013 by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), and COI-NEXT launched in 2020 by MEXT (grant number: JPMJPF2017). The sponsors had no role in the preparation of this manuscript.

Original Paper

Title of original paper:
Effects of home-based manual dexterity training on cognitive function among older adults: a randomized controlled trial
European Review of Aging and Physical Activity


Professor OKURA Tomohiro
Institute of Health and Sport Sciences, University of Tsukuba

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