Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


Is brain fitness scientifically proven to improve cognitive skills?

Here is the fourth install­ment of ques­tions from Brain Fit­ness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Ques­tions. To down­load the com­plete ver­sion, please click here.

Ques­tion:Brain Working Out
Is brain fit­ness sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly proven to improve cog­ni­tive skills?

Key Points:

  • Neu­ropsy­chol­o­gy and the under­stand­ing of brain mech­a­nisms of cog­ni­tion took off in 1861 when Pierre-Paul Bro­ca pub­lished a paper on brain local­iza­tion of lan­guage.
  • Cog­ni­tive train­ing and behav­ioral ther­a­py has been in use in hos­pi­tals and the mil­i­tary for 40 years or more.

Thanks to new neu­roimag­ing tech­niques, said to be “as impor­tant for neu­ro­science as tele­scopes were for astron­o­my,” and oth­er state-of-the-art research meth­ods, neu­ro­sci­en­tists are find­ing that exer­cis­ing our brain influ­ences the gen­er­a­tion of new neu­rons and their con­nec­tions.

Pre­vi­ous beliefs about our brain and how it works have been proven false. Some beliefs that have been debunked include claims that adult brains can­not cre­ate new neu­rons (proven false by Prince­ton sci­en­tist Dr. Eliz­a­beth Gould, UC-Berke­ley sci­en­tists Dr. Mar­i­an Dia­mond and Dr. Mark Rosen­zweig, and Salk Institute’s Dr. Fred Gage), notions that work­ing mem­o­ry has a max­i­mum lim­it of 6 or 7 items (proven false by Karolin­s­ka Institute’s Dr. Torkel Kling­berg), and assump­tions that the brain’s basic process­es can not be reor­ga­nized by repeat­ed prac­tice (proven false by UCSF’s Drs. Paula Tal­lal and Michael Merzenich).

The “men­tal mus­cles” we can train include atten­tion, stress and emo­tion­al man­age­ment, mem­o­ry, visual/spatial skills, audi­to­ry process­es and lan­guage, motor coor­di­na­tion, and exec­u­tive func­tions like plan­ning and prob­lem solv­ing.

While there is much basic research around neu­ro­plas­tic­i­ty, cog­ni­tive reserve, cog­ni­tive train­ing, and neu­ro­feed­back, that research alone is not enough to show the effect of spe­cif­ic brain fit­ness pro­grams. To be use­ful, the spe­cif­ic skills exer­cised in brain fit­ness pro­grams need to trans­fer into our over­all cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties and enable you to have a bet­ter mem­o­ry, con­cen­tra­tion, deci­sion-mak­ing, plan­ning skills, reac­tion time, capac­i­ty to learn, abil­i­ty to man­age stress, or oth­er men­tal abil­i­ties.

The sci­en­tists who have cre­at­ed the pro­grams we fea­ture at Sharp­Brains have pub­lished exten­sive stud­ies show­ing the effec­tive­ness of their prod­ucts.

Fur­ther Read­ing

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As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

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