Brain Training … does it really work?
One quick search in the app store for brain games will bring you up a long list of apps claiming to help your memory, decision making skills, improve focus. The claims and benefits are pretty lofty …claiming “boosted productivity, earning power, and self-confidence”, “surprise everyone with cognitive abilities”, or “make your life more productive and happy”. Seems pretty magical! In fact, brain exercises are such a popular trend right now that consumers spent an estimated $1.9 billion on digital brain health and neurotechnology apps in 2018 (a fourfold increase from 2012).
What is cognitive training?
“Cognitive, or brain, training refers to exercises aimed at improving specific aspects of a person’s cognitive functions, such as processing speed, reasoning and memory. The exercises can be computer- or smartphone-based.”read more
The apps are designed for various age ranges, some geared towards kids and other towards adults but they have particularly sparked interest in the aging community. With an increased worry about cognitive decline and dementia, these training programs seem to be the golden ticket. But it leads us to question the science claims behind them.
Do brain games and training work?
Well that is up for debate in the medical community. One study will see beneficial results while another study will claim there is no realized benefit (if you want to dive in on your own this study was very interesting pertaining to kids). Turns out there is actually quite a bit of controversy to the claims companies state which is no surprise when they promise you happiness and earning power. In 2016 the FTC became involved as they began cracking down on bold health claims after a series of misleading ads.
Regardless of the wild claims, there is some usefulness to these tools – just not quite the magic pill the app creators want you to believe. The science is continuing to improve and it is an exciting time as scientists study how we learn and strengthen this muscle!This week I will share tidbits and valid questions to ask when thinking about brain training and what kinds of benefits might be realized. Specifically who might best benefit from these programs as well as other activities that can enhance your mental health and acuity beyond the technology!
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