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Does Brain Training really work?

Updated on September 27, 2013

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!



Brain Training from Amazon

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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    • Alison Graham profile image
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      Alison Graham 4 years ago from UK

      I agree, needforhealth, keeping the brain exercised is just as important as keeping the rest of the body exercised in order to keep it in good health!

    • profile image

      needforhealth.wordpress.com 4 years ago

      Very small part of the brain is used and rest remains untouched . Brain should be active in some work to make it effective and sharp .

    • Alison Graham profile image
      Author

      Alison Graham 4 years ago from UK

      Thanks for the tip Simon, I will check it out!

    • profile image

      Simon Dirks 4 years ago

      I think brain games work pretty well. Games like braintraining on the DS, I don't think so. You'll just get better at the games instead of improving your actual cognitive skills. The creators themselves admitted that. It's for entertainment purposes.

      But, if you take a site like http://braingymmer.com with games all based upon neuroscientific research, or another similar site, I think you can actually achieve some nice results with daily training.

      At least I feel like it's helping for me, and I train about 15 minutes a day.

    • khanzee profile image

      khanzee 5 years ago

      Great article..

    • Alison Graham profile image
      Author

      Alison Graham 6 years ago from UK

      @thedutchman, Thanks for your comment on this hub about brain training and for the encouragement which is very much appreciated.

    • thedutchman profile image

      thedutchman 6 years ago

      This hub is very informative and great. Keep it up.

    • profile image

      asih 6 years ago

      nice

    • profile image

      Franck 6 years ago

      Hi Alison,

      Good job. You can also refer http://www.happy-neuron.com

      They have a wide variety of brain games also.

    • profile image

      hoku81 6 years ago

      It is very interesting article. I like very much it.

    • Alison Graham profile image
      Author

      Alison Graham 6 years ago from UK

      Thanks for your comments Tim. I agree with you and believe the important thing is to keep the brain active and to try to keep learning something new - researching a Hubpages article is great for that!

    • Tim Blackstone profile image

      Tim Blackstone 6 years ago

      I think thinking about thinking is great brain training but it makes my brain hurt..lol

      I suspect that doing crosswords and general puzzles is a cheaper alternative to electronic brain training and is just as effective but the electronic versions may be more convenient.

      Writing hubpages probably is as good as anything elese for keeping the old brain cells active. Good point that and a good hub.

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 6 years ago

      Yes, Alison, I think I should get my mom to write too. :)

    • Alison Graham profile image
      Author

      Alison Graham 6 years ago from UK

      I am sorry to hear this Ingenira but I agree with you that we should keep our minds active. Writing articles here on Hubpages is great therapy!

    • Ingenira profile image

      Ingenira 6 years ago

      Our brain slowly dies out if we stop using it...I have seen too many of such cases.

    • DustinsMom profile image

      DustinsMom 7 years ago from USA

      I completely agree with brain training. I know from personal experience that you can and sometimes you must retrain your brain as a mode of survival.

      Great hub!

    • profile image

      Luigi Spotorno  7 years ago

      Well done, well written, it is true that the best way to keep you young, is to keep your brain constantly active and alert. It is a warning for workaholics, like I was, to accept that there is life behind retirement and not to hibernate in a world of oblivious thought and hyped fear when the day comes, I am more busy now then I ever was and my only regret is not having retired much earlier. You don’t get a second change, train your brain so that you may live your life to the full.

      Luigi Spotorno, Maestro in the Art of Napkin Folding.

    • profile image

      Pauline Willis 7 years ago

      A brave intelligent piece, well researched and clearly conveyed. Hope the training helps all us "oldiies".

    • profile image

      DebbieRosher 7 years ago

      This is really interesting! A really good piece - well written and researched. I think I shall definitely give brain training a try!

    • profile image

      Ken Wheeler 7 years ago

      What you have said is excellent and very well researched. I shall certainly pass onto my daughter, Sharon, as one of my grandchildren has been diagnosed as being ADHD. Achieving high scores in the tests is another matter........

    • Alison Graham profile image
      Author

      Alison Graham 7 years ago from UK

      Thank you - your comment really encouraged me as this is my first hub!

    • thevoice profile image

      thevoice 7 years ago from carthage ill

      first rate hub well thought of thanks

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