Brain games are becoming popular and turn into a billion-dollar business. They claimed that playing these brain games will revolutionize brain’s performance but research does not support this claims.
According to the study conducted by researchers, Neil Charness, professor of psychology and a leading authority on aging and cognition, together with Wally Boot, associate professor of psychology, and graduate student Dustin Souders from Florida State University (FCU), who tested the theory about brain games to help preserve cognitive function.
Study results revealed that brain games does not reflect any good result to improve general cognition.
Their study focused on whether brain games could boost the “working memory” needed for a variety of tasks. They set up one group of people to play a specially designed brain games training video called “Mind Frontiers,” while another group of players performed crossword games or number puzzles.
All players were given lots of information they needed to juggle to solve problems. Researchers tested whether the games enhanced players’ working memory and consequently improved other mental abilities, such as reasoning, memory and processing speed.
Testing the theory behind many brain games: Whether brain games will improve the overall working memory, which is fundamental to day to day activities, and whether brain games can enhance performance in many areas of your life reasoning and decisions.
The team examined whether improving working memory would translate to better performance on other tasks or as the researchers called it: “far transfer.”
“It’s possible to train people to become very good at tasks that you would normally consider general working memory tasks: memorizing 70, 80, even 100 digits,” Charness said in their press released. “But these skills tend to be very specific and not show a lot of transfer. The thing that seniors in particular should be concerned about is, if I can get very good at crossword puzzles, is that going to help me remember where my keys are? And the answer is probably no.”
Charness has spent much of his career the past 45 years trying to wrap his brain around the way the mind functions and how it ages. With the senior population continuing to grow — 45 million Americans are 65 or older — Charness understands their concerns about preserving brain function and remaining independent.
“People have real concerns about loss of cognition and loss of memory as they age, so they do all kinds of things to try to stave off cognitive decline,” Charness said.
Charness noted that other research finds aerobic exercise, rather than mental exercise, is great for your brain. Physical exercise can actually cause beneficial structural changes in the brain and boost its function. He predicts “exer-gaming,” which combines exercise with brain games, will increase in popularity in the 21st century.
“I wouldn’t come away from our article totally discouraged,” Charness said. “It’s another piece of the puzzle that we’re all trying to assemble. It’s discouraging in the sense that we can’t find far transfer and that seems to be a fairly consistent finding in research. But if your real goal is to improve cognitive function and brain games are not helping, then maybe you are better off getting aerobic exercise rather than sitting in front of the computer playing these games.”
This research is published at Frontiers in aging neuroscience.