The brain looks like a muscle. When we think, are we really flexing the brain? Can the on-line apps and our best efforts with chess, crossword puzzles and all available mind exercises, keep our brains in good shape? Brain training is exercising your mind like a muscle. And it works.
“Gamification” is a trending word. The idea is to take the concept of training and exercising your brain and turn it into a game. This works best with software-based games.
The idea that you can train your brain is new. But ancient games like chess and backgammon have always had elements of brain development built in.
Until the 1960’s, only science fiction writers and philosophers talked about the ability to expand the mind and increase the intellect, after adulthood.
Scientists believed that when a child reached a certain stage that was the cap. And that he or she would not be able to get smarter.
It’s true that from birth to three years, a child experiences unprecedented brain growth. By the time, we are three years old; there are 15,000 synapses, in the area of the cerebral cortex.
Most adults have about half the number of synapses of the average three year old. It seems that as we gain new life experience and knowledge, some of our connections or synapses get stronger and some disappear.
Does Brain Training Software Work?
“Lumosity”, a website founded by Michael Scanlon, Kunal Sarkar and David Drescher, certainly has confidence, in the age old notion, that brain exercises really can make a difference.
They were perhaps the first (on-line 2005), of an ever growing trend. Other brain-exercising and training software programs include; CogniFit, CogMed, Mind Sparke (Brain Fitness Pro) and Jungle Memory.
Neurologist, Dr. Carolyn Leaf has a series called “Switch on the Brain. Her software presents the concept that cortical mapping and remapping (neuroplasticity) of the brain is possible.
Co-founder Michael Scanlon began developing the “Lumosity” website, after he dropped out of Stanford, where he was pursuing a PHD in neuroscience. Recently, the reports are that over 50 million people have become members of the website, and the mobile app continues to be downloaded thousands of times every day.
In 2007, Susanne Jaeggi, and other researchers published their Columbia University study, which pointed to short-term memory gains and IQ increases from digital brain training.
Thomas Redick and colleagues at Georgia Tech tested 17 varied cognitive tasks, including those that tested working memory, fluid intelligence, multitasking, and discernment speed. Overall, the Redick findings were that Jaeggi had been optimistic and there were no universal permanent improvements, only short-term, specific enhancements.
Over the 13 years since Jaeggi published, cognitive improvement research has continued. Some show more promise than others.
Torkel Klingberg is one of the top experts in the field of working memory. And he has published a lot of his work, over the last 20 years. His research shows that improvements to cognitive ability, memory and intelligence are possible. It depends on adaptive and intensive brain training.
The cumulative research is still being studied. There is controversy throughout neuroscience. And it is still questionable if we can increase or repair neural pathways.