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Brain Training Debunked at Last!

Updated on March 1, 2013

Aging with Grace

Uncle Ben at 92, and my lovely Dad.  Both enjoying their senior age.
Uncle Ben at 92, and my lovely Dad. Both enjoying their senior age.

Brain Power - Some answers

The rise and fall of brain training.

Brain training’, or the goal of improved cognitive function through the regular use of computerized tests, is a multimillion-pound industry, yet in our view scientific evidence to support its efficacy is lacking”.

Once touted as the fastest way to hone your mental powers, brain training software has now been consigned to the shelf of technologies that failed to live up to expectations. What went wrong?

The big question was whether getting better at the game would translate into general cognitive improvements. Some trials have shown success, but have been criticised for being too small to produce meaningful results.

No large, published trial has yet shown concrete evidence that brain training has an effect on real world activity. In fact, the largest trial ever found that it doesn't work.

Early this year, a team led by Adrian Owen of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, UK, got over 11,000 volunteers to do either online brain training or surf the web to find answers to a set of obscure questions.

All the volunteers showed improvements in the task they were assigned, but there was no difference between the groups on other tests of cognition.

The conclusion? There's no evidence that brain trainers improve general cognitive functioning (Nature, Vol 465. p.775).

Oh what bliss to read this article from such a learned publication!!! Having been talked into ‘brain training’ exercises by a few silly people, no longer of my acquaintance I hasten to add! I read this with no small amount of glee and satisfaction. Having spent many anxious hours (but thankfully, not falling into the trap of buying any of the exorbitantly priced software) trying to work these puerile things out, I came to the conclusion that the more often you did them, the better you’d become, just from purely memorizing the sequences of whatever puzzle was presented. Given time, a chimpanzee could do them with a fair degree of success!

There appeared to be no real challenge in them at all.

They were designed as cognitive tasks to improve reasoning, memory, planning, visuospatial skills and attention span.

A good cross-word puzzle would seem to be far more effective for training your brain I thought. At least with a good crossword you have to do research, and in the very act of looking through your dictionaries and thesauruses you would be developing all of the above skills, and would be learning surely? And you’d probably enjoy it too – an added bonus. Who actually enjoyed the ‘challenge’ of the brain training computerised tests? I suspect very few!

And in this same article – New Scientist, 29th September 20010, by Helen Thompson ( came another passion of mine, Meditation. In fact, I’ve recently written an article on the very subject ( Meditation...………) This had been prompted by watching an inspirational programme on Alternative Therapies, presented by Professor Kathy Sykes from Bristol University in the UK for the Open University.

For several decades I’ve practiced meditation, primarily because it helped me though many of lifes' crises and because it made me feel much better physically and emotionally. I was able to cope with and be in control of my life instead of being dragged kicking and screaming from one predicament to another.

My more recent researches on brain training; brain foods; exercising; music; meditation etc have come about because I’m getting older and like so many people, worry about becoming senile. Aging is a natural process I know, but brain function deterioration I believe can be overcome to some extent. If I can possibly help it, there is no way I want to end up losing my faculties, and so I’ve been pursuing many avenues of research to stop this ‘inevitable’ decline.

Hence, it was with great delight that I found this article today, and the programme last week, bearing out my long held theories.

“Brain training games won’t make you smarter – but a dose of blue light, meditation, or an electrical shock just might”.

Ms Thompson writes “Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. I crack open an eye. Everyone else has theirs closed. I shut it again. Breathe in, breathe out. Around me people are sitting crossed-legged, meditating. For some it’s spiritual, for others an oasis of calm. Me? I’m building a better brain”.

I’m not quoting the article verbatim, but do go to this weeks - Mental muscle: six ways to boost your brain. Please read the information yourselves and see if you find it as fascinating as I do.

As I said in my Hub Article, it really is heart-warming to have long held and instinctive theories confirmed by scientific research.

The article comes as a confirmation of the programme made by Professor Sykes and I for one am delighted with the scientific progress of my pet passion!

'I have every intention of getting old disgracefully and without a trace of Alzheimers or senility!'


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