Are Computer Games Beneficial For Improving One’s Memory?

Posted on September 19, 2010
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As we age, we occasionally think that we would like to give our potentially failing mental performance a bit of a boost. One method of improving memory and other mental capabilities appears to be brain training. This comprises a range of computer activities intended to help you become more skilled at different mental tasks such as memory, problem-solving and simple mathematics. Strangely enough though, we tend to think that because we become advanced at performing the brain training games, that these competencies are automatically transferable and thus valuable in other mental tasks that we need to accomplish.

The multi-million dollar brain training games industry would no doubt claim that its mental exercises are based on sound neurological theory and that therefore there is a reasonable possibility of improving your memory and other skills through using its mind exercise software. They have not however, at least to my knowledge, published the results of any studies that they have made into this area.

Well, recently the very revealing results of a large UK study into the effectiveness of brain exercises on improving memory etc. have been published, and they are probably not what you would have predicted. BBC television conducted this research in conjunction with the British Medical Research Council and the Alzheimer’s Society.

They recruited thirteen thousand adult volunteers to participate in their rigorous experiment for about one and a half months. The goal was to check out whether exercising the brain on a variety of activities designed to utilize different regions of the brain (such as the temporal lobes for memory and the parietal lobes for mathematics), would develop brain abilities, such as memory and problem-solving capabilities.

The volunteers were divided into an experimental group and a control group. The first group did a broad range of brain exercises, including ones for improving memory , for ten minutes every other day for six weeks. Since the tasks were internet-based, the control group just used the internet for the same amount of time. At the end of the trial period, the brain training group was retested on the brain exercises and was found to be 33 per cent better at performing the brain games they had trained on.

The objective of the study was to see whether getting competent at brain training activities would bring about improvement in the same skills when used in a different circumstance. So both groups of test subjects were tested prior to and following the study in their ability to execute activities such as problem-solving and recalling number sequences.

Upon retesting at the end of the trial, the control group’s score had improved by 4.35 per cent. Surprisingly however, the score for the experimental group was almost identical. It represented only a 6.52 per cent increase over its original score. So, statistically there was no difference between the two groups. Of course, what they could not conclude was whether the small improvement was just the effect of working online. Perhaps there could have been another group that did nothing online.

So if you have been playing these brain training games with the intention of improving your memory, is it time to give them up and put them out to pasture? Well, that is entirely up to you, but do bear in mind that studies, no matter what their size, can be flawed and that what does not work for some people could work for you. If you really care about improving memory , then there are many other memory strategies you can explore, such as playing sports, taking a look at improving your diet and even going to the odd concert.

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