Research indicates that a commercial brain fitness program has been shown to improve memory in older adults, at least in the period soon after training.
The UCSF research shows that simple visual tasks can improve the accuracy of short-term, or "working" visual memory.
Working memory is essential to accomplish immediate tasks, such as engaging in conversation with several people.
In the study, healthy older participants trained on a computer game not only improved their perceptual abilities significantly, but also increased the accuracy of their visual working memory by about ten percent.
The people who improved the most in the visual training showed the biggest drop in neural activity - as if the brain didn't have to work as hard to take in information.
"This confirms our understanding that the brains of older adults, like those of young people, are 'plastic' - the brain can change in response to focused training," said Adam Gazzaley, director of the Neuroscience Imaging Center at UCSF.
The research is being published in the journal PLoS One.