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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