Do you remember the brain-training fad from just a few years ago? I remember commercials for Lumosity and CogniFit going viral and my family discussing how these programs may help my grandmother in a sensory-rut due to her hearing continuing to worsen. I remember buying the iPad to stream these applications for my grandmother’s personal use. And I remember my family’s and my grandmother’s disappointment at her lack of improvement. My family had invested time and money in this experiment and we were let down. This is what makes Gareth Cook’s article “Brain Games are Bogus” (2013) from The New Yorker important to me.
The brain-training craze began in 2002 when Torkel Klingberg published a paper on the all-around cognitive benefits of brain-training in children. The study concluded that intelligence, generally believed by psychologists to be fixed, is a changeable muscle that can gain strength with exercise. Klingberg’s results were so widely praised that he founded Cogmed to commercialize the software for public consumption. The brain-training industry has steadily expanded since the founding of Cogmed, with smartphone applications like Lumosity, CogniFit, Elevate, Fit Brains Trainer, and Peak appearing left and right. But these applications may do you no good.
Articles published since the brain-training craze took over conclude that the games and exercises involved in brain-training programs do not improve the user’s cognition overall; the small improvements one may notice in playing these games will not translate to improvements in brain function.
As Gareth Cook reminds his readers in the article, if you spend hours a day or hours a week playing brain-training games, then you are giving up the opportunity to spend your time more wisely doing something more productive and healthy for your body and your brain.
As men and women grow older and begin to retire and relax, they stop learning, they stop challenging their brain, and they begin worrying about the slowing down of their cognition. But there are many things a person can do to maintain their brain health and brain function. Learning a new language or improving your skills in another language is beneficial, as well as learning a new instrument, or taking on a role in a theatre production. Physical exercise is a crucial component to brain health as well and should not be neglected in later life. Consider something that you may have never done before. To keep your brain trained, you need to challenge yourself mentally. The best way to keep your brain sharp is by doing something new and different.
Written by: Laura Keeble at Simone Friedman Speech-Language Services
Cook, G. (2013, April 5). Brain Games are Bogus. Retrieved September 4, 2015, from http://www.newyorker.com/tech/elements/brain-games-are-bogus