Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain Fitness Software and Training Games

Unless you have been liv­ing in a cave, you have read by now mul­ti­ple arti­cles about the brain train­ing and brain exer­cise craze: sudoku, Nin­tendo BrainAge, mul­ti­ple online games, soft­ware like Mind­Fit and Posit Science…

If you are look­ing for some fun men­tal stim­u­la­tion now, here you have our selec­tion of Brain Teasers.

Now, how do you know which of the new pro­grams can help you more, or whether you need any of them? which ones are sim­ply enter­tain­ing Games vs. which ones look like “Games” but are really Train­ing, improv­ing, spe­cific cog­ni­tive and emo­tional skills? Well, that’s why we are pub­lish­ing the Sharp­Brains Check­list below, to help you nav­i­gate through the over­whelm­ing and con­flict­ing media reports and com­pany announcements.

We have spent over 18 months inter­view­ing sci­en­tists and review­ing avail­able Brain Fit­ness and Exer­cise Pro­grams world­wide, and want to share with you, right now, the research-based cri­te­ria we use to eval­u­ate them.

10 Ques­tions to Choose the Right Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for You (and a brief expla­na­tion of why each ques­tion is important)

* 1. Are there sci­en­tists, ide­ally neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists, and a sci­en­tific advi­sory board behind the program?

(Neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists spe­cial­ize in mea­sur­ing and under­stand­ing human cog­ni­tion and brain struc­ture and function.)

* 2. Are there pub­lished, peer-reviewed sci­en­tific papers in PubMed writ­ten by those sci­en­tists? How many?

(Pubmed is a ser­vice of the U.S. National Library of Med­i­cine that includes mil­lions of cita­tions sci­ence jour­nals. If a sci­en­tist has not pub­lished a paper that appears in that data­base, he or she can­not make sci­en­tific claims.)

* 3. What are the spe­cific ben­e­fits claimed for using this program?

(Some pro­grams present the ben­e­fits in such a neb­u­lous way that it is impos­si­ble to tell if they will have any results or not…“brain train­ing” itself is a lim­ited ben­e­fit, because activ­i­ties like gar­den­ing or learn­ing a new lan­guage pro­vide “brain train­ing too”…you need to see some­thing more spe­cific, like what cog­ni­tive or emo­tional skill that pro­gram is aimed at)

* 4. Does the pro­gram tell me what part of my brain or which cog­ni­tive skill I am exer­cis­ing, and is there an inde­pen­dent assess­ment to mea­sure my progress?

(The ques­tion is whether the improve­ment expe­ri­enced in the pro­gram will trans­fer into real life. For that to hap­pen we need assess­ments that are dis­tinct from the exer­cises themselves.)

* 5. Is it a struc­tured pro­gram with guid­ance on how many hours per week and days per week to use it?

(Brain exer­cise is not a magic pill. You have to do the exer­cises in order to ben­e­fit, so you need clar­ity on the effort required.)

* 6. Do the exer­cises vary and teach me some­thing new?

(The only way to exer­cise impor­tant parts of our brain is by tack­ling novel challenges.)

* 7. Does the pro­gram chal­lenge and moti­vate me, or does it feel like it would become easy once I learned it?

(Good brain exer­cise requires increas­ing lev­els of difficulty)

* 8. Does the pro­gram fit my per­sonal goals?

(Each indi­vid­ual has dif­fer­ent goals/ needs when it comes to brain health. For exam­ple, some want to man­age anx­i­ety, oth­ers to improve short-term memory…)

* 9. Does the pro­gram fit my lifestyle?

(Some brain exer­cise pro­grams have great short-term results but are very intense. Oth­ers may be bet­ter over time)

* 10. Am I ready and will­ing to do the pro­gram, or would it be too stressful?

(Excess stress reduces, or may even inhibit, neurogenesis-the cre­ation of new neurons-. So, it is impor­tant to make sure not to do things that stress us in unhealthy ways.)

We hope this infor­ma­tion is use­ful. Feel free to share it!

For more infor­ma­tion on each ques­tion and print­able lay­outs, see:

SharpBrains Checklist 10 Ques­tions to Choose the Right Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for You
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SharpBrains Checklist Bookmark 10 Ques­tions to Choose the Right Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for You (book­mark size)
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You can also find more infor­ma­tion in our Brain Fit­ness Top­ics sec­tion. And over 40 stim­u­lat­ing mind games in our Brain Teasers sec­tion.

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16 Responses

  1. Thanks for the list! I just found out about these brain exer­cises. I will def­i­nitely give it a go soon and keep those ques­tions in mind.

  2. […] Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents Brain Train­ing Games and “Games” posted at SharpBrains. […]

  3. […] Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents Brain Train­ing Games and “Games” posted at Sharp­Brains: Your Win­dow into the Brain Fit­ness Rev­o­lu­tion. Explain­ing how to nav­i­gate through the grow­ing num­ber of “brain train­ing” claims. […]

  4. […] Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents Brain Train­ing Games and “Games” posted at Sharp­Brains say­ing, “Explain­ing how to nav­i­gate through the grow­ing num­ber of “brain train­ing” claims-some of which can be help­ful for emo­tional self-regulation.” […]

  5. […] Since the release of Brain Age, there have been a tonne of Brain Train­ing games released. Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents Brain Train­ing Games and “Games” at Sharp­Brains, which pro­vides a detailed guide for find­ing a brain train­ing game that’s right for you. […]

  6. […] Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents Brain Train­ing Games and “Games” posted at Sharp­Brains, say­ing, “Explain­ing how to nav­i­gate through the grow­ing num­ber of “brain train­ing” claims.” […]

  7. […] And we pro­vide some guid­ance on eval­u­at­ing the claims of Brain Train­ing Games. […]

  8. Alvaro says:

    Carl: glad to hear that the check­list is helpful!

  9. […] Alvaro Fer­nan­dez presents Brain Train­ing Games and “Games” posted at Sharp­Brains, say­ing, “Explain­ing how to nav­i­gate through the grow­ing num­ber of “brain train­ing” claims.” […]

  10. […] If you want to learn more: Eval­u­a­tion Checklist and review of our own skep­ti­cism regard­ing some claims. Inter­view notes with neu­ro­sci­en­tists behind mil­i­tary and bas­ket­ball train­ing applications and work­ing mem­ory train­ing for kids with ADD/ ADHD. […]

  11. […] Brain Train­ing Games and “Games”: 10-questions to help eval­u­ate pro­grams mak­ing brain train­ing claims. […]

  12. […] We are glad to see that MindFit is finally mak­ing it into the pop­u­lar press, at least in the UK. The pro­gram is mak­ing big news in the UK (BBC, Times, Daily Telegragh, Guardian…) because Baroness Susan Green­field, direc­tor of the Royal Insti­tu­tion and a well-respected neu­ro­sci­en­tist, is endors­ing it. We eval­u­ated it last year and liked what we saw, based on our 10-Question Check­list. Now, remem­ber that no pro­gram is “best”, but that dif­fer­ent pro­grams can be more appro­pri­ate for spe­cific peo­ple and spe­cific goals, so read the check­list first and take a lot at other programs too if you are in the mar­ket for “brain training”. […]

  13. […] Com­ments: the arti­cle touches many key points. I espe­cially enjoy the quote “To be effec­tive, sci­en­tists say men­tal activ­ity must become pro­gres­sively more chal­leng­ing. Oth­er­wise, the brain adjusts and learns to per­form repet­i­tive tasks with less effort”, which explains why well-designed pro­grams can be more effec­tive than doing cross­word puz­zle num­ber 512,789. The arti­cle also relates how many retire­ment com­mu­ni­ties and senior cen­ters and indi­vid­u­als are try­ing out the new brain fit­ness pro­grams com­ing to mar­ket, and shows some healthy skep­ti­cism on the state of the research. Now, this is an invi­ta­tion to the reporter to interview neu­ropsy­chol­o­gist Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg to get the full pic­ture of the sci­ence behind the field, since these pro­grams haven’t appeared in a vac­uum. Our 10-Question Eval­u­a­tion Checklist can pro­vide use­ful guid­ance to any­one con­sid­er­ing a program. […]

  14. […] Note: by click­ing here you will visit a dif­fer­ent web­site, unafil­i­ated with us.  Please remem­ber that we have not devel­oped Mind­Fit, but con­sider it one of the pro­grams with good grades in our 10-Question Eval­u­a­tion Check­list, so we are glad to have secured this dis­count. Below you have some demos, so you get a sense of the types of exer­cises we are talk­ing about. Have fun! […]

  15. […] — Brain Train­ing Games and “Games”: a 10-Question Check­list on how to eval­u­ate pro­grams that make brain-related claims. […]

  16. […] — Brain Train­ing Games and “Games”: a 10-Question Check­list on how to eval­u­ate pro­grams that make brain-related claims. […]

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