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Research: Does Nintendo Brain Age work as a brain training game?

A new study tries to, but unfor­tu­nately doesn’t, answer that ques­tion. Study: Brain Train­ing Game Improves Exec­u­tive Func­tions and Pro­cess­ing Speed in the Elderly: A Ran­dom­ized Con­trolled Trial (PLoS ONE).

Con­clu­sions: Our results showed that play­ing Brain Age for 4 weeks could lead to improve cog­ni­tive func­tions (exec­u­tive func­tions and pro­cess­ing speed) in the elderly. This result indi­cated that there is a pos­si­bil­ity which the elderly could improve exec­u­tive func­tions and pro­cess­ing speed in short term train­ing. The results need repli­ca­tion in large sam­ples. Long-term effects and rel­e­vance for every-day func­tion­ing remain uncer­tain as yet.”

We were quite crit­i­cal of the “BBC brain train­ing” paper pub­lished in 2010, because, con­trary to what it claimed to do, it didn’t answer the ques­tion, “does brain train­ing work”. We need to be equally crit­i­cal of this new study, given its very small size (only 30 peo­ple), the fact it was not run in a com­pletely inde­pen­dent man­ner (Dr. Ryuta Kawashima is one of the co-authors), the selec­tion of con­trol (Tetris), among other fac­tors. We share the study here because it is indeed an inter­est­ing study, but it should be seen as a “small dot”, not as a defin­i­tive study to “con­nect the dots”.

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