Brain Training Makes Safer Drivers: A Pilot Study
Aaron Sterling, College of Wooster
What: A recent study explored whether a computerized onboard cognitive training program was more effective in improving safe driving habits in older adults than other cognitive or driving training methods. Thirty-seven healthy elderly daily drivers were randomly assigned to one of three training groups: Training with a newly developed onboard cognitive training program, training with a similar program but on a personal computer, or training to solve a crossword puzzle. After 8 weeks of training, researchers found that those subjects trained via the onboard cognitive training program did significantly better on tests of processing speed, working memory, driving aptitude and on-road evaluations.
Why This Matters: As the proportion of drivers over 65 increases, maintaining driver competence is fast becoming a significant public safety issue. Training programs to insure continued safe driving ability have shown promise in the past. This study, while small, suggests that there may be differential benefit depending on the program’s modality and delivery.
The Takeaway: The effectiveness of the onboard training system piloted in this study suggests that implementing a training system in the car may facilitate improved driver safety. We can probably look forward to future studies on a larger scale that consider the issue of best practices for delivering driver training in older adults.
Late Life Emotional Well-Being Linked to Early Childhood Familial Experiences
Margot Radding, Carleton College
What: A study out of the UK examined links between childhood experiences and adult well-being. 5,000 participants between the ages of 60 and 64 completed the Warwick Edinburgh Mental Well-being Scale (WEMWBS), a 14-part questionnaire that indicated, for instance, how often the subject “had been feeling close to other people.” Childhood environment was also assessed including factors such as socioeconomic circumstances, childrearing, parenting, family instability, parental health and adjustment, and child health and well-being. Of the indicators, the results revealed that childrearing, parental health, and childhood illness were related to WEMWBS scores. Participants born to teenage fathers had significantly lower WEMWBS scores than those born to fathers over 20. In addition, there was a suggestion that subjects with overprotective mothers were associated with lower WEMWBS. There was no evidence that socioeconomic circumstance was related to later well-being.
Why It Matters: This study suggests that initiatives to improve the nation’s mental well-being, particularly those focused on supporting families and children, may have benefits decades afterwards. These results stress the importance of familial stability in childhood as the key to a healthy adulthood.
The Takeaway: We often focus on the impact of socioeconomic status on our general happiness. However, as these results reveal no evidence between childhood socioeconomic circumstances and WEMWBS scores, we may need to shift our views. As the state of our mental well-being is clearly vulnerable to early experiences, we should ensure our children grow up in families equipped to raise a mentally stable child.