Enhancing Innovation and Underlying Neural Mechanisms via Cognitive Training in Healthy Older Adults



Non-invasive interventions, such as cognitive training (CT) and physical exercise, are gaining momentum as ways to augment both cognitive and brain function throughout life. One of the most fundamental yet little studied aspects of human cognition is innovative thinking, especially in older adults. In this study, we utilize a measure of innovative cognition that examines both the quantity and quality of abstracted interpretations. This randomized pilot trial in cognitively normal adults (56-75 years) compared the effect of cognitive reasoning training (SMART) on innovative cognition as measured by Multiple Interpretations Measure (MIM). We also examined brain changes in relation to MIM using two MRI-based measurement of arterial spin labeling (ASL) to measure cerebral blood flow (CBF) and functional connectivity MRI (fcMRI) to measure default mode and central executive network (CEN) synchrony at rest. Participants (N = 58) were randomized to the CT, physical exercise (physical training, PT) or control (CN) group where CT and PT groups received training for 3 h/week over 12 weeks. They were assessed at baseline-, mid-and post-training using innovative cognition and MRI measures. First, the CT group showed significant gains pre- to post-training on the innovation measure whereas the physical exercise and control groups failed to show significant gains. Next, the CT group showed increased CBF in medial orbitofrontal cortex (mOFC) and bilateral posterior cingulate cortex (PCC), two nodes within the Default Mode Network (DMN) compared to physical exercise and control groups. Last, significant correlations were found between innovation performance and connectivity of two major networks: CEN (positive correlation) and DMN (negative correlation). These results support the view that both the CEN and DMN are important for enhancement of innovative cognition. We propose that neural mechanisms in healthy older adults can be modified through reasoning training to better subserve enhanced innovative cognition.


Includes supplementary material


Brain Injuries, Traumatic, Divergent thinking, Life spans (Biology), Creativity, Memory, Plasticity, Geriatrics, Aging, Cognition, Creativity, Cerebrovascular Circulation, Exercise, Gerontology, Older people, Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Prefrontal Cortex, Gyrus Cinguli


National Institute of Health (RC1-AG035954, R01-NS067015, R01-AG033106).


CC BY 4.0 (Attribution), ©2017 The Authors. All Rights Reserved.