Do Brain Games Work?


| 3 Comments

I am unfortunately a part of the seemingly large percentage of people who believe they have a bad memory. I am confident in my short-term memory, but sometimes struggle to remember what I did a week or even a day before. In an effort to improve my memory, I recently conducted an Internet search. My search led me to Lumosity, an online brain performance-training program that can be personalized to emphasize individual strengths or weaknesses. Lumosity's Head of Communications Erica Perng has been quoted as saying, "Lumosity is based on the science of neuroplasticity, the idea that the brain can change and reorganize itself given the right kinds of challenges." Lumosity provides those challenges with computer games that test memory, reasoning, concentration, and awareness.

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Lumosity is just one of the leading companies in the evolving industry that is commonly referred to as "brain training". But does brain training really work? The scientific data on brain training is contradictory. I set out to examine a few of the studies that have been conducted on the topic to determine whether playing brain-strengthening computer games really work, and how their effectiveness compares to other activities. Neuroscientist Dr. Adrian Owen observed 11,000 adults performing a six-week computer brain training program and concluded that the subjects improved at the games through familiarity rather than an improvement in intelligence. Many user reviews on Lumosity report improvement in the brain games over time, but as of now there is insignificant evidence that improvement in computer games causes improvement in brain performance.

While there is not enough evidence to make any certain conclusions about brain training, I believe that computer-based games do improve brain function, but they do not improve brain function as much as other activities such as social interaction. Biologist Jalees Rehman recently published a new study concluding that adult cognitive skills can be improved more effectively by exposure to new situations and learning new skills than through watching documentaries or completing puzzles. While this study only observed 221 adults, it was well conducted and is consistent with my belief that social interaction and learning new skills are more effective at improving one's brain than by completing computer-based brain games.

 

 

Bibliography

 

http://www.lumosity.com/

http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/apr/21/brain-training-online-neuroscience-elizabeth-day

http://www.scilogs.com/next_regeneration/learning-digital-photography-improves-cognitive-function-older/

 

 

3 Comments

This blog really caught my eye because recently I have become a new member of Lumosity. I see their commercials all the time and I too have little confidence in my memory so I thought I would give it a try. I love the idea of Lumosity, instead of wasting my time playing mind numbing games like Candy Crush why not get something out of all this time I spend on my phone. When you sign up for Lumosity they start the program by asking you a series of questions to cater the different games to how you want to improve, and to get a better idea of what you want to work on. I've been playing the games they recommend for me for a couple of days now and can say they are fun, but I certainly don't feel any smarter and I still can't remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday.
I just received an email from Lumosity today, my first "lesson." Lesson one is all about the effectiveness of the program and the science behind it. Although they manage to throw some fancy words around like "neuroplasticity" I don't know how much of their research holds any merit. They have a bunch of explanations on how it can improve the way you think and learn that sound convincing, but they don't have any statistics and they never site real scientists or anyone who has actually done this research. I still feel that this program is worth a try though, I'm only a few days into the program so I think I'll try it for a month or so and see if it's worth getting behind in Candy Crush.

I've heard of little games online that you can do to challenge your brain, but I've never heard of a site that is specific for actually training your brain. At first thought, this sounded like one of those products that are sold late at night on TV that don't really seem to have any strong proof of how they work, or even if they work. Everyone's brain works differently. I'm sure people start out on this program at a different level than others as well. Also, even if our brains and level of memory were the same, people learn in different ways. I had never heard of this site before so I decided to check it out just a little and I noticed that they do have a quick survey you can fill out that makes the training more personalized, but I'm still skeptical. For the two of you that are trying it out, I'd love to see how it works out for you and if you notice any difference!

I've heard of luminosity before and for someone who also claims to have a bad memory, I probably should have take a closer look at what it has to offer. It makes sense to exercise your brain since you exercise the rest of your body. One example of brain training that I've seen repeatedly is for older adults or really any adults for that manner who play the card game bridge. Before my Grammy passed away she swore the game was a way to keep her as sharp as possible. This article from the NY Times is really great and it discusses a group of women in their 90's who play bridge religiously and none of them have any signs of dementia or memory loss. If your interested read more here, http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/22/health/research/22brain.html?pagewanted=all to see how they keep their brains so lucid and memories intact.

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