Brain-training claims by companies are not backed by science
Brain training games have long been promoted by brain training companies as a way of stimulating cognitive function; improving memory, thinking ability or concentration. But a new research suggests that brain games may not work after all as they have found no solid evidences to support their ambitious claims.
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Extensive review reveals that brain training games will only improve a person's gaming performance but will not train him in broader, real-life tasks, which sounds logical too. For example, if you spend a lot time in remembering a string of letters or matching colored cards, you will start to get better at these specific tasks but it won’t help you solve math questions or memorizing terms in biology.
“The idea behind 'brain training' is that if you practice a task that taps a core component of cognitive ability, like memory, the training will improve your ability to perform other tasks that also rely on memory, not just in the lab, but also in the world. That premise is known as 'transfer-of-training,” said University of Illinois’ psychology professor Daniel Simons, who led the analysis.
“If you practice remembering playing cards, you'll get really good at remembering playing cards. But does that help you remember which medications to take, and when? Does it help you remember your friends' names? Historically, there is not much evidence that practicing one task improves different tasks in other contexts, even if they seem to rely on the same ability.”
To reach this conclusion, researchers looked at 132 scientific studies that were cited by brain training companies to back up their claims but none of them appears to have solid enough evidence to prove that they are right.
The review team reveals that nearly every study they looked at failed to meet their requirements as they had found numerous problems with the way these studies were cited, including small sample sizes, complicated procedure, and incorrect interpretation of evidences and analysis. Many of those studies were also conducted on special groups like people suffering from schizophrenia or other brain disorders but their findings were considered applicable to general population. Another major problem was the use of inappropriate control groups that were used as a baseline for measuring improvements. Overall, these problems have made it difficult for the researchers to draw a clear-cut conclusion.
“There are relatively few studies in this literature that objectively measure improvements on the sorts of real-world tasks that users of the programs presumably want to improve - and that the programs' marketing materials emphasize,” said Simons.
“Based on our comprehensive review of the evidence cited by brain-training proponents and companies, we found little evidence for broad transfer from brain-training tasks to other tasks.”
Simons added. “We hope future studies will adopt more rigorous methods and better control groups to assess possible benefits of brain training, but there is little evidence to date of real-world benefits from brain training."