Are Brain Games A Drain...Or Really Worth Doing?

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For some time now, it has been thought that by exercising short-term memory through training and testing games, a person might prevent or limit Alzheimer's disease, dementia, and dyslexia.

This theory was sparked in part by articles such as a PNAS study that concluded training the working memory for a mere 10 hours (i.e. with some commercial brain-training software) could in fact improve some measures of fluid intelligence, especially when it comes to problem solving.

This concept led to a slew of “brain games” that hit the market with the promise of keeping our brains fit and high functioning. An article in The Scientist reports,

Companies hawking brain-training games have enjoyed massive success in recent years. Joe Hardy, the vice president of research and development at Lumosity—one of the most well-known of these companies—told The Scientist in an e-mail that his firm has more than 50 million users. These ventures bank on consumers’ expectations of cognitive benefits from brain training…”

Still, there were those in the scientific community that had their doubts, believing that the field would benefit from having validity standards set by the American Psychological Association or some such group, and via further analysis of past studies.

With that in mind, two researchers at the University of Oslo and University College London conducted a meta-analysis of 23 different brain-training studies in 2013. What they found was precisely what brain-game skeptics had been expecting: the subjects of their study did seem to improve when it came to the specific tasks they were given in the brain games, but in no other area.

In other words there is no magic pill or quick-fix when it comes to keeping a healthy brain. An article in The Atlantic concludes.

…the things that do help shape a healthy brain are the things that have been tried and tested for years. Physical fitness forces more blood to flow into the brain, allowing for more neural connections. So exercise works, as does conventional training in reading and language skills for children with reading-comprehension and oral language difficulties.”

Sources:

Read all articles by Juniper Briggs

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