Can Brain Training Be Good For Improving The Memory?

Posted on July 18, 2010
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There is no denying that brain training games are fantastic fun and if you play them on a regular basis you can undoubtedly improve considerably at playing them. You may possibly imagine that by playing them, you are taking steps for improving memory and for enhancing all your other mental functions. It is justifiable to think this, but how do we know for sure that there has in fact been any progress? Do we actually have scientific evidence of the helpfulness of these mental exercises?

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.

The researchers intended to determine whether playing a range of computer-based activities, including memory exercises, over a six week period of time, each developed to exercise different areas of the brain, would cause individuals in the research to be better equipped to use their mental skills in other areas not connected to playing brain training games. The trial included a good cross-section of 13000 of the adult British public.

In accordance with proper experimental design practice, there were two groups of participants in the experiment. Volunteers were randomly assigned either to the experimental or the control group.

The experimental group spent ten minutes a day for six weeks playing a set of brain training games designed to exercise a large spectrum of mental skills including memory. When retested at the end of the study, their ability to perform the brain games they had trained on had improved by a third, against their initial performance in them. The control group spent the same amount of time as the others surfing the internet.

The intention of the research was to observe whether getting experienced at brain training tasks would bring about improvement in the same skills when used in a different context. So both groups of subjects were tested before and following the study in their capacity to accomplish tasks such as problem-solving and remembering 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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