Does Brain Training really work?
Is There Any Evidence for the effectiveness of Brain Training?
Does Brain Training really work? The success of Nintendo Brain Age Academy game, fears about declining brain function and the possibility of severe cognitive function impairment in old age due to dementia illnesses such as Alzheimer’s may be part of the reason why, according to Google’s Keyword tool, there were 450,000 searches on the phrase Brain Training in the month of February 2010.
It is obviously an area that generates a huge amount of interest, we may be getting older and wiser but our brains don’t work any faster. Numerous studies have shown that areas of cognitive function such as attention, memory and the speed at which we process information all decline with our advancing years.
Brain Training seems to be the most popular method of staving off this decline – although other methods, such as taking nutritional supplements and taking more exercise undoubtedly have their place.
It is evident that many people want to try Brain Training for themselves and perhaps would be more inclined to do so without spending money on software or subscriptions. In this article, I provide links to sites where you can try out Brain Training for free!
Kawashimas Brain Training
Scientific Evidence in support of Brain Training
The randomized controlled trials that I have read about do suggest benefits – for example, there was a large study in older adults without Dementia and whilst this failed to fund an improvement in daily functioning from the training, it definitely showed a slow-down of decline. Also, studies with specific groups of children, such as those with dyslexia or ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) also showed benefits for the participants.
Studies have also shown that training your working memory can increase your fluid intelligence (fluid intelligence is defined by Wikipedia as follows: Fluid intelligence is the ability to find meaning in confusion and solve new problems. It is the ability to draw inferences and understand the relationships of various concepts, independent of acquired knowledge).
The real challenge to prove whether brain training really works would be showing that practising one type of mental skill transfers over into other real-life benefits - for example, if it could be proved that doing puzzles like Sudoku or completing crosswords improved your mental performance in other areas as well.
In the UK, the BBC are running Brain Test Britain on their website. Dr Adrian Owen who helped Lab UK to design the Brain Test Britain experiment explains the problems with popular brain training games and what he’s hoping to learn from this unique piece of research. He says that the scientific claims made about most brain trainers haven’t been properly checked and that Brain imaging doesn’t prove that brain training works. In addition, Most research has been done without a ‘control’ group and hasn’t included suitable ‘benchmarking’ tests. He goes on to say “The Brain Test Britain experiment meets all the accepted standards for a scientifically valid study. We hope that thousands of members of the public – including you! – will help us to answer, for the first time, the question: does brain training work?”
I have been participating in the study which requires training for a minimum of 10 minutes a day, three times a week, for atleast six weeks. At intervals, there is evaluation, using benchmarking tests which have been developed by neuroscientists that measure key aspects of brain function. I am not sure if there has been an improvement in my abilities, but I have certainly enjoyed the process.
Try out Brain Test Britain for yourself here: www.bbc.co.uk/labuk/experiments/braintestbritain (you will need to set up a login in order to participate)
Try Brain Training Games for FREE online!
Probably the best known of the Brain Training games is Nintendo’s Brain Age Academy. However, if you want to have fun doing Brain exercises and Brain Training games, without spending any money, you can try out some of the free sites online – here are two of my favourites-
Lumosity is a site where you can try out many of the brain training games for free – to enjoy the full functionality of the site, including being able to enrol in training courses, track your progress and see how you compare in ability to other users of similar age, you will need to pay a subscription which can be paid either monthly or annually and which represents good value against many of the other online courses available.
The Lumosity site states that its users have reported:-
- Clearer and quicker thinking
- Improved memory for names, numbers, directions, etc.
- Increased alertness and awareness
- Elevated mood
- Better concentration at work or while driving
Or you could try,
www.brainmetrix.com which is an educational website dedicated to brain training programs and where you can engage in fun games and brain fitness workouts all for free!
So what is the Verdict on Brain Training?
Evidence for the benefits of cognitive training for everyday functioning is still very limited. Brain training software currently available may, or may not, live up to the claims made for it. One thing is guaranteed though, if you want to find out the answer to the question, Does Brain Training Really Work?, you will have great fun trying out the games and using the free sites online, you will have the opportunity to see for yourself whether your performance improves without spending any money!
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