Apr 1, 2008
By: Alvaro Fernandez
Salon.com published yesterday a thought-provoking article focused on Posit Science’s Brain Fitness Program, titled Buff Up Your Brain, that combined a) some pretty good analysis and great points about that specific program and justifiable (to a point) criticism of the commercial tone of a recent PBS Special, with b) the error of confusing a tree with the forest, that led the author to make several unwarranted claims regarding the field.
Computerized cognitive training has been around since way before Posit Science, and will be here way beyond Posit Science (and SharpBrains, and Salon.com), and their auditory processing product-featured in the PBS Special- is not, in our view, the most particularly impressive example. Well-directed cognitive exercise can enhance mental skills and transfer to real-life outcomes, acting as a good complementary tool, when used properly, to other lifestyle options and tools.
For example, we read that “At present, the only way a brain fitness program can demonstrate its value is through traditional “neuropsychological testing.”” and that “But it isn’t easy to create a double-blind study for a computerized brain exercise program.”
I suspect the author is not familiar with Dr. Torkel Klingberg’s work, for one, summarized in this list of scientific papers: http://www.klingberglab.se/pub.html,
or many of the others mentioned in the End Notes of our recent report, such as
– 4*Willis et al: “Long-Term Effects of Cognitive Training on Everyday Functional Outcomes in Older Adults.” Journal of the American Medical Association. Volume 296, 23: 2805-2814, 2006.
– 6*Green & Bavelier. “Action video game modifies visual selective attention”. Nature 423:534-537, 2003.
– 22*Kasten et al. Computer-based training for the treatment of partial blindness. Nature Medicine, 4, 10831087, 1998.
– 23*Cicerone: “Evidence-Based Cognitive Rehabilitation: Updated Review of the Literature From 1998 Through 2002”. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2005. Cicerone: “Evidence-based cognitive rehabilitation: recommendations for clinical practice.” Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2000.
– 24*Olesen et al: Increased prefrontal and parietal brain activity after training of working memory. Nature Neuroscience, 7(1): 75-79, 2004.
– 37*Gopher et al:”Transfer of skill from a computer game trainer to flight”, Human Factors 36, 1–19, 1994.
– 38*Hart & Battiste:”Flight test of a video game trainer.”Proceedings of the Human Factors Society 26th Meeting (pp. 1291-1295).
– 39*Shebilske et al: “Revised Space Fortress: A validation study”. Behavior Research Methods, 37, 591-601. 2005.
Or the ones we review in more detail, from researchers such as John Gabrieli and Karlene Ball.
So, please, let’s clarify: are we talking about a tree, or perhaps even several trees, or the forest?
And, when talking about one specific tree, can we please clearly state what tacit hypothesis is being refuted: whether it is a “general solution” or not (in our view, no program is) or a specific tool, that, like any tool, can be useful in the proper context?
And now, good night!-as we saw recently, sleep is a much needed, inexpensive yet time-consuming, brain fitness program…
A couple related posts
– 10-Question Program Evaluation Checklist