Can the brain improve by doing mental exercises in the same way that muscles can be strengthen by physical exercise?There is some evidence that certain mentally stimulating activities, such as being mindfully engaged, continuing to learn challenging new skills and continuing formal education, can improve the performance of our brains.In the 1970s, Dr Ken Gibson began his work in this area, experimenting with a variety of mental workouts. He learned that short periods of intense mental exercises can produce positive results with children who have ADHD. His program, which is call LearningRx, helps young people focus longer on tasks and to think things through before acting.
What it Does and Doesn’t Do
Unfortunately for dementia or Alzheimers patients, brain training has not proven to be very effect.
Instead, intense physical exercise such as aerobic workouts and even ballroom dancing appear to produce more benefits for them.On the other hand, cognitive training can have lasting effects on the elderly who do not suffer from dementia or Alzheimers. Clinical trials in three different cognitive areas – reasoning, speed of processing and memory – were funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR). These trials also included a fourth control group of seniors who only took the baseline test.
The results were encouraging. Although all groups decline somewhat over a 10-year period, those participants who trained in speed of processing and reasoning had less of a decline than the control group. Only the memory group showed no difference in performance from the control group.
The Huffington Post article on brain games suggests that they simply make the user better at that specific task and that the skills do not translate over to other areas of our lives. The article suggests that today’s overuse of smart phones and other electronics can actually damage our brain’s functionality. The author recommends engaging in deeper thinking activities, such as analyzing and grouping large body of data.
How Does Brain Training Work?
For those who can benefit from game-like brain training exercises, a computer program, called SmartDriver, simulates progressively difficult driving scenarios. By using this program, people with brain injuries, ADHD and other learning disorders improve cognitive skills and self-esteem in a fun and safe environment. The quickness of the sensory input and the requirement to concentrate on the simulated road seem to be the combination that results in improved mental abilities.
BrainHQ has a unique viewpoint regarding how to train the brain. Instead of memorizing lists, their approach gets to the root cause of memory loss so that memory is improved across the board.
They have learned that as time goes on our brains slow down. We produce fewer neuromodulators, the chemical in the brain that determines what we should process and remember. In short, our brains get lazy by nature. BrainHQ has developed an array of mental exercises that wake up the old processes and retrains the brain to rapidly pay very close attention to details. Their exercises improve the amount of details that is noticed and the quality with which it is processed and stored.
In spite of less than ecstatic scientific community regarding brain training, there have been many advances in this new science. BrainHQ, in particular, is taking an in-depth approach that has show good results. Dr Ben Gibson has helped many children and their families lead more normal lives.
Even if the skeptics tell us that video and computer games are too superficial to make us smarter, they can certainly improve our lives by giving us interactive entertainment. Websites like NeuroNation.com, offer a variety of games for many cognitive functions.
We are all different in many ways. We, as individual participants, are the best judge of whether brain training games and exercises are improving our lives and how we think.