By Stephen Easton
There is no evidence to support the idea that becoming an ace at playing a ‘brain training’ computer game will improve your cognitive function in any other areas, according to results from a large study published in the respected journal, Nature.
The latest study is the largest yet to fail to find any evidence to corroborate the idea that brain training games have any impact on general cognitive functions, beyond the skill of playing the game itself.
Researchers from the UK examined the results of more than 11,000 people who participated in the online study and concluded that, “Although improvements were observed in every one of the cognitive tasks that were trained, no evidence was found for transfer effects to untrained tasks, even when those tasks were cognitively closely related.”
Eight researchers, Adrian Owen, Adam Hampshire, Jessica Grahn, Robert Stenton, Said Dajani, Alistair Burns, Robert Howard and Clive Ballard, related the results and supporting data from the study, along with the methods that were used, in a letter that was published in the June edition of the prestigious journal under the headline, ‘Putting brain training to the test’.
The 11,430 participants of the six-week study were sourced from among the viewers of the BBC popular science program, Bang Goes the Theory, and trained several times a week on cognitive tasks designed to improve reasoning, memory, planning, visuo-spatial skills and attention span.
“‘Brain training’, or the goal of improved cognitive function through the regular use of computerized tests, is a multimillion pound industry, yet in our view scientific evidence to support its efficacy is lacking,” the authors of the ‘letter’ to the journal said.
However there are more general lifestyle strategies that studies have shown can delay – or even prevent – the onset of dementia. These include mentally stimulating activities, keeping fit, maintaining a healthy diet, remaining socially active, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation.