A new study by the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, in conjunction with the BBC show Bang Goes the Theory, states that brain games and exercises cannot improve cognition – they can only improve your ability to play that particular game. The study was conducted with 11,430 participants who were divided into three groups given different tasks.
One group’s exercises focused on planning, reasoning and problem-solving skills. Another group utilized software comparable to what’s sold and marketed today as commercial brain-training exercises. The third group, a control group, used the internet to answer general knowledge questions, but did not use any brain-training programs. All three groups did their tasks three times a week for 10 minutes at a time over a six-week period.
The participants were given computer-based tests that measure their brain functions before and after the six weeks, with each group showing little to no improvement even when they engaged regularly in “brain training” exercises. The only improvements researchers could find in these participants were their abilities to improve at specific games. For example, those who had to assemble on-screen puzzles as part of their training simply got faster at putting them together, which didn’t improve overall brain function.
There is a small silver lining to this study and its results, which aired yesterday on BBC and are published in the science and medical journal Nature: These results were only for participants aged 18 to 60. Participants older than this are still being tested to see if these exercises can fend off Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain disorders.
Brain Test Britain – (BBC)