How Does Dementia Affect Processing Speed?

Can You Change Your Processing Speed?

Processing Speed in the Brain. Science Photo Library - PASIEKA Brand X Pictures/ Getty Images

What Is Processing Speed?

Processing speed is a measure of how quickly you are able to perform a cognitive task that is relatively simple and automatic. It relates to the efficiency with which you can function cognitively.

How Is Processing Speed Affected by Dementia?

In general, processing speed is slowed by dementia. Specifically, research has shown that a decline in processing speed has been correlated to changes in the brain's white matter and a decrease of the hippocampal volume in the brain, both of which have been tied to dementia.

Can You Improve Your Processing Speed?

Research was conducted with a group of older adult participants who received cognitive training in one of three areas: memory, speed of processing or reasoning. The training consisted of 10 sessions that lasted about an hour and were provided within a period of five to six weeks. Results from these training sessions demonstrated that even 10 years after the training, participants continued to demonstrate significantly improved processing speed and reasoning skills when compared to other participants who received no training.

A second study conducted with young adults demonstrated improved processing speed with the use of a brain training game called Brain Age. Participants played the game for about 15 minutes a day, averaging at least 5 days a week for four weeks. Results showed improvements in processing speed as well as working memory and executive functioning.

Suggested Reading


Aging, Neuropsychology, and Cognition: A Journal on Normal and Dysfunctional Development.Volume 21, Issue 2, 2014. Processing speed in normal aging: Effects of white matter hyperintensities and hippocampal volume loss.

American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias. 2011 Sep;26(6):463-8. Apolipoprotein E-e4, processing speed, and white matter volume in a genetically enriched sample of midlife adults.

The Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario. Processing Speed. Accessed August 30, 2015.

Journal of the American Geriatric Society. 2014 Jan; 62(1): 16–24. Ten-Year Effects of the ACTIVE Cognitive Training Trial on Cognition and Everyday Functioning in Older Adults.

PLoS One. 2013; 8(2): e55518. Brain Training Game Boosts Executive Functions, Working Memory and Processing Speed in the Young Adults: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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