Gaming Doesn’t Improve Cognitive Function in Older Adults with MCI or Dementia

November 9, 2021

While it may be fun and entertaining, brain gaming doesn’t result in significant improvement in the cognitive function of older adults who have some form of cognitive impairment or dementia. This is the conclusion of a study in the November issue of JAMDA, although the authors suggested further research is needed on this issue.

In Effectiveness of Brain Gaming in Older Adults with Cognitive Impairments: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, the authors looked at studies that examined the effect of cognitive interventions using non-immersive, electronic brain gaming methods on cognitive function among older adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia. The gaming involved a wide range of software and videos that older adults accessed via laptop, desktop, and other platforms. They excluded gaming that involved immersive or semi-immersive virtual reality games, as well as non-computer-based efforts such as pencil-and-paper or board games.

Not only did the authors find there was no significant improvement on standardized cognitive test scores from the gaming; they also found there was no superior effect on cognitive domains of memory, executive function, visuospatial skills, and language. At the same time, the overall effect on quality of life from gaming was small and non-significant.

The authors concluded, “Based on our systematic review of 16 studies and our meta-analysis of 14 studies, we conclude that brain gaming is not more effective than control interventions in improving cognitive functions among adults with MCI or dementia.” However, they stressed that “because of considerable heterogeneity of the included studies in terms of study design, we cannot confidently refute the premise that brain gaming is an effective cognitive training approach in this population.”

The study was conducted by researchers at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Center for Innovation in Complex Chronic Healthcare & Research Service, Hines, IL; Department of Aging and Geriatric Research, Institute of Aging, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL; School of Rehabilitation Science, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada; Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, School of Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Denver, CO; Department of Rehabilitation Medicine, Division of Physical Therapy, Emory University, School of Medicine; Department of Neurology, School of Medicine, University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, Denver, CO; Department of Community Medicine and Rehabilitation, Umea University, Umea, Sweden; and Department of Therapy and Rehabilitation Science, School of Health Professions, University of Kansas Medical Center, Kansas City, KS.

Get more information on the findings above and more details about the study. To contact the researchers or JAMDA editor for an interview, please email




JAMDA is the official journal of AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine. JAMDA publishes peer-reviewed articles including original studies, reviews, clinical experience articles, case reports, and more, on all topics more important to post-acute and long-term care medicine. Visit for more information.


About AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine
AMDA – The Society for Post-Acute and Long-Term Care Medicine is the only medical specialty society representing the community of over 50,000 medical directors, physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, and other practitioners working in the various post-acute and long-term care (PALTC) settings. Dedicated to defining and improving quality, we advance our mission through timely professional development, evidence-based clinical guidance, and tireless advocacy on behalf of members, patients, families, and staff. Visit for more information.