Brain Training… does it work?

Last week I blogged about factors that affect memory; age, stress and drugs, and some comments on this blogs noted ways to reduce these factors to remove the effect on memory, so I thought for this week I would move forward on to look at ways of impoving memory.

When I first thought of how to impove memory I thought about these brain training games that are always advertised on televsion, I have to admit that when they first came out I did have one, Dr Kawashima’s brain training for DS, although I do not think it made my memory any better I did improve on the tasks that were set by the game.

The aim of these games such as the ones by Nintendo, Lumosity and other companies are set to improve the working memory. These training games use both verbal and non-verbal tasks such as reasoning and comprehension. But do they work???

So when looking for research in this area I thought with there being such a big market for these kinds of games that I would find a wealth of evidence to support the use of these kinds of games, however when loooking this was not the case, some studies are able to support that these games work for older adults (Smith et al. 2009) and Thorell et al. (2009) show significantly better effects on working memory when used on preschool age children. However, studies have failed to find that these games improve working memory in the general population or that these skills that are trained on the games trasfer to other tasks, even when they are closey related (Owen et al. 2010).

Although the research shows that for people in the general population these games could be a waste of money, they could be useful in pre-schools, as they have been shown to be effective in children this age. Although you may think that this could prove costly, this is not the case, a quick look on the app store shows a lot of free games of this nature, and there a free downloads on the internet too. This could be a fun way for the children to improve their general cognitive functions.