Friday, May 24, 2013

Does Brain training work? Yes, but…

That’s the message from the folks at SHARPBRAINS, who position themselves as a research company who specializes in the fast-growing brain health arena.
In a recent posting - http://sharpbrains.com/blog/2013/05/22/does-brain-training-work-yes-if-it-meets-these-5-conditions/ - they spell out five (5) qualifications/requirements for brain training to work. They are:

1. It must engage and exercise a core brain-based capacity or neural circuit identified to be relevant to real-life outcomes, such as executive attention, working memory, speed of process­ing and emotional regulation.

That seems reasonable, we need to exercise on important issues, like “where did I leave my car keys?”

2. It must target a performance bottleneck otherwise it is an exercise in vanity similar to building the largest biceps in town while neglecting the rest of the body. A critical question to ask is: Which brain function do I need to optimize?

I think the hardest issue in any exercise program is working on what I’m not so good at, e.g. balance or flexibility, versus what I like to think I’m good at (beer pong).

3. A minimum “dose” of 15 hours total per targeted brain function, performed over 8 weeks or less, is necessary for real improvement.

This is something I’m still grappling with. Does Lumosity give me 15 hours worth of “targeted brain function” in an eight-week period if I do the prescribed program 4 times a week? Can I get by with 3 times a week…or am I so far from achieving the “15 hours” threshold that I’m just fooling myself? I’m going to ask Lumosity with that question and report back.

4. Training must adapt to performance, require effortful attention, and increase in difficulty. This is a key advantage of computerized “brain training” over pen-and-paper-based activities.

Ok, I buy that. Actually, I’ve literally bought that with my Lumosity subscription.

5. Continued practice is required for continued benefits. Just as you wouldn’t expect to derive life­long benefits from running a few hours this month, and then not exercising ever again, you shouldn’t expect life­long benefits from a one-time brain training activity.

No biggie, I’m not somebody who walks to work and expects the physique of a triathlete.

Here’s the link, again, to the full article on the SHARPBRAINS website: http://sharpbrains.com/blog/2013/05/22/does-brain-training-work-yes-if-it-meets-these-5-conditions/ Although I suspect that a lot of the detail and important insights are in the book they want me to buy: The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age: http://sharpbrains.com/book/         




Image credit: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/photo_16774308_brain.html'>abidal / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

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