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Brain Fitness Programs, “Brain Gyms”…Explained

SharpBrains Vision
Thanks to Mind­Hacks for the link to a good Wash­ing­ton Post arti­cle, “Pump­ing Neu­rons”.

A cou­ple of quotes:

Recent research shows that the brain remains plas­tic, or basi­cal­ly train­able, through­out life. In a study pub­lished in the Jour­nal of the Amer­i­can Med­ical Asso­ci­a­tion in 2002, sig­nif­i­cant per­cent­ages of the 2,802 par­tic­i­pants age 65 and old­er who trained for five weeks for about 2 1/2 hours per week improved their mem­o­ry, rea­son­ing and infor­ma­tion-pro­cess­ing speed.

When we learn, we cre­ate phys­i­cal changes inside our heads. By prac­tic­ing a skill, we repeat­ed­ly stim­u­late the same area of the brain, which strength­ens exist­ing neur­al con­nec­tions and cre­ates new ones. Over time, we can become more cog­ni­tive­ly effi­cient, using few­er neu­rons to do the same job. And the more often we fire up cer­tain men­tal cir­cuits, the eas­i­er it is to get them going again.


The reporter then goes on to review a num­ber of web­sites that offer pure­ly online exer­cis­es, i. e., she doesn’t review any of the soft­ware-based pro­grams such as Posit Sci­ence for improv­ing audi­to­ry speed, RoboMemo for work­ing mem­o­ry train­ing, Mind­Fit for 14 brain fit­ness areas/ cog­ni­tive skills , Intel­li­gym for bas­ket­ball game-intel­li­gence, Freeze­Framer for stress man­age­ment, and oth­ers.

We will be read­ing more and more arti­cles like that-which is good news for a nascent field. Now, I would rec­om­mend any­one con­sid­er­ing such pro­grams to always ask the ques­tions:

  1. What does the spe­cif­ic pro­gram look like: how many hours a week, how many weeks, and to accom­plish what out­comes? Some pro­grams we have seen leave it so open that it is unclear for us how users are sup­posed to get what ben­e­fits. When we go to the gym, and we tell the coach what our objec­tives are, we typ­i­cal­ly get a good struc­ture and pro­gram to fol­low.
  2. What research has been pub­lished, or has been sub­mit­ted to pub­li­ca­tion, that sup­ports that if a per­son fol­lows that pre­cise pro­gram he or she will like­ly obtain those promised ben­e­fit?
  3. How do any ben­e­fits trans­fer to real life and to our cog­ni­tive abilities/ skills? by def­i­n­i­tion, by play­ing a game we get bet­ter at a game. Which is great in itself, because we learn some­thing new, and it builds self-con­fi­dence. Now, how do I know that trans­fers into an expand­ed “men­tal mus­cle” or cog­ni­tive abil­i­ty, that will also help me in domains out­side the game itself?

Over­all, the arti­cle is a good intro­duc­tion to the con­cept of Brain Fit­ness, or brain gym­na­si­ums, or men­tal gym­nas­tics, or men­tal cal­is­then­ics -as you wish.

Here you also have some recent posts that can enrich this con­ver­sa­tion:

On the Sci­ence
Overview of the Sci­ence Behind Brain and Mind Fit­ness
Brain Fit­ness Glos­sary
Why we need more than cross­words and sudoku to protect/ improve our Brain Fit­ness
Use It or Lose It: what is “It”?

On Brain Fit­ness Pro­grams
Sharp­Brains’ vision for Brain Fit­ness: assess­ments, pro­grams, coach­es, com­mu­ni­ties
Overview of Brain Fit­ness Pro­grams: The Brain Fit­ness Rev­o­lu­tion is here with us
Fun 10-minute sur­vey on Brain and Mind Fit­ness
Sta­tis­tics on why peo­ple play casu­al games online-includ­ing per­cep­tions of cog­ni­tive and mem­o­ry improve­ments, and stress relief

Inter­views with neu­ro­sci­en­tists
Inter­view with the Torkel Kling­berg, Sci­en­tif­ic Offi­cer of Cogmed Work­ing Mem­o­ry Train­ing
-Inter­view with Dr. James Zull, Pro­fes­sor of Biol­o­gy and Bio­chem­istry at Case West­ern Uni­ver­si­ty , on why Learn­ing is crit­i­cal, and how we Learn

Good press arti­cles
Good pop­u­lar press arti­cles on brain change, brain plas­tic­i­ty, suc­cess­ful aging, stay­ing sharp
More Good pop­u­lar press arti­cles: on men­tal stim­u­la­tion, Brain and Cog­ni­tive Reserve, stress, phys­i­cal exer­cise and humor

Inter­faces with oth­er pil­lars for Brain Health and Brain Fit­ness, apart from men­tal stim­u­la­tion
Phys­i­cal fit­ness and Brain Fit­ness
Why Man­ag­ing Stress is as impor­tant as Stim­u­lat­ing our Minds

Enjoy

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