If you surf around the internet often, I imagine you have seen advertisements claiming that brain software can increase your intelligence.
You know, just play this video game and get smarter…sounds great!
But not so fast, there are actually people out there that research this stuff to see if they work…
This Study Says “Not So Fast” on the Online Brain Game Claims
Members of the Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Britain’s Medical Research Council decided to get to the bottom of this with a test group of 10,000 people.
Over the course of six weeks, a group of 4,000 people, from ages 18-60, were given online games to play, designed to make you smarter – in terms of improving memory, reasoning, and other cognitive skills.
They were given instructions to play the games for a set amount of time: 10 minutes per day, 3 times per week.
A second group, roughly the same size and of the same age group as the first, were given online games to play that tested other skills, including short-term memory, attention span, and certain types of math.
A third control group, smaller at about 2,000 people but of the same ages as well, were told to surf the web as usual.
Both before and after the experiment, all participants were given IQ tests. The researchers then compared the test results to determine if any of the individuals had gotten smarter from the games.
The results, published in the latest online issue of the journal Nature, suggested brain games did not improve any cognitive functions at all.
Lead researcher, Adrian Cohen, went as far as to say that this study proved the games did not increase a person’s IQ at all either.
There is a Debate about the Study
It is worth noting that the researchers involved in this study created both the IQ tests and the brain games used in the experiments. They claim (and they are a bunch of Neuroscientists) that their games represent what is currently being sold on the market.
The companies in the industry, of course, deny this. At the moment, I simply do not know who is right but my intuition is to go with the research.
There are some companies out there that do seem to offer technology that is different from what this study was about, but from what I can see it covers over 95% of the games available now.
I am in discussions with a professor who understands this better than I do and if you are interested we are going to provide you with information on specific online brain games – I just want to get my facts straight first.
What Does This Mean?
Although there is the debate mentioned above, this research does indicate that some of the claims you have been reading are overblown at best. One thing we do know about increasing your intelligence, helping to prevent Alzheimer’s, etc… is that you want to continually challenge your brain in different ways.
Learning a new language, playing a new instrument, learning a new form of exercise, a new dance, or a martial art are proven ways to activate what we call brain plasticity.
New neural pathways can be formed in this way as well and you can learn new fun skills along the way.
As far as the popular online games, there is no harm, but I would wait and see what more experts have to say.
Nature Advance Online, 464, April 20 2010
Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit at Britain’s Medical Research Council