Earlier this year, I posted details about the BBC’s study, Brain Test Britain, of over 11,000 people who were asked to do specific brain training exercises for 10 minutes at least 3 times a week.
The premise of the study was to see what results, if any, the BBC’s specifically designed brain training produced. The results? Participants did improve in the specific areas they actively trained, however the improvements were not found to transfer to other areas of cognition.
Some of you participated in this experiment and were kind enough to offer your thoughts in our comments section.
Cathy said, “the brain training associated with this study does not appear to be training in things like memory, perception, and other skills. It appears to be attempted training in knowledge.
I think the danger of this study is not that the people participating are unlikely to gain anything from it. It is that since it is a research study, the results will be used to make generalizations about whether brain training works.”
Victoria said, “I have now completed 3 days of training. At the moment I have only seen one style of game with different themes… and cannot see how my result will improve unless other games are introduced.”
Sparky said, “I’ve signed up for the Brain Test Britain. First day testing done. I found it interesting and challenging. Not quite sure what to make of it. A bit mysterious not knowing what testing group I’ve been put in.”
Martin Walker Of MindSparke.com said, “The design of the Brain Test Britain training regime ignores previous research about what kind of training approach does in fact lead to measurable cognitive changes. As Cathy points out the training is too lightweight; it’s also too brief and too infrequent.
So, Brain Test Britain will inevitably satisfy its true objective – it will show that brain training is a waste of time. I suspect that this will please the scientists who helped design the study and should know better!”
I’ve watched this story make its way through media publications and even onto Twitter. Alvaro Fernandez, co-founder of SharpBrains.com had this to say yesterday:
Right now you are inventing your own brain game, and the only thing you will test is whether that specific brain game you have developed works or not (not clear what outcome measures you have). I wouldn’t dare to manufacture my own car now from scratch and claim, based on the results, that cars work or don’t.
It’s worth clicking that link above and reading his full remarks. I’ve always found Alvaro to be cautious with his words, and he poses some interesting questions.
Steven Aldrich, CEO of PositScience – the maker of The Brain Fitness Program – offered his take on the study:
I am disappointed that the BBC’s scientists did not find a way to improve cognitive performance in the thousands of people who tried their on-line brain games.
That being said, it’s not a surprise to us, as we know first-hand that building cognitive training that actually works requires the application of some very complicated science principles, years of research, and rigorous testing to get it right.
Aldrich went on to cite the IMPACT study, led by scientists from The Mayo Clinic and University of Southern California, which found that users who trained specifically on The Brain Fitness Program showed generalized improvement in memory and not just increased effectiveness on the training tasks.
So what does this all mean to you, and to me? It means we keep doing what we’ve been doing over here.
- Do your research. Ask questions. Consult your physician.
- Read the scientific studies that accompany products and make sure they actually apply to that specific product.
- Use the product as directed. You won’t see any improvement if it’s still sitting in the box.
- Brain training comes in many forms – not just computerized. Spread your activities across multiple domains such as physical exercise, social interaction, learning new things, reading and proper nutrition.
This debate will continue for some time, and it should. As consumers, you and I have a right to know what really works and what doesn’t. We, as a brain training community, need more research, more studies, more conversation, in order to make the best decisions about our brain health.
I would love to hear your thoughts on this.