Why are computer programs better than paper-based ones or simply attending a class in person?

Here is ques­tion 8 of 25 from Brain Fit­ness 101: Answers to Your Top 25 Ques­tions. To down­load the com­plete ver­sion, please click here.

Why are com­put­er pro­grams bet­ter than paper-based ones or sim­ply attend­ing a class in person?

Key Points:

  • Paper-based and in-per­son class­es are good and bet­ter than not doing any­thing men­tal­ly stimulating.
  • Like oth­er recre­ation­al activ­i­ties, class­es are hard to con­trol for using var­i­ous men­tal mus­cles and pro­vid­ing increas­ing chal­lenge and nov­el­ty over time.

Tak­ing class­es and read­ing can be great fun and an easy way to learn some­thing new. Learn­ing some­thing new is always good for your brain. It doesn’t even mat­ter so much what you learn as the fact that you are engag­ing your brain and chal­leng­ing it.

The trou­ble with class­es is much the same as the trou­ble with using only recre­ation­al games for brain fit­ness. While they offer many ben­e­fits, the actu­al “workout” can vary dra­mat­i­cal­ly. What if you get a ter­ri­ble teacher, or the class turns out to be way below your abil­i­ty – or way above it. Sud­den­ly, what seems like a good idea either doesn’t chal­lenge or doesn’t sup­port you (not under­stand­ing some­thing is stress­ful). Also, no sin­gle class can cov­er all, or even most, of the areas of your cog­ni­tion. In the end, it will cov­er an arbi­trary, and prob­a­bly some­what nar­row, set of func­tions but not oth­er functions.

When you use one of the com­put­er-based pro­grams, there is gen­er­al­ly an assess­ment to deter­mine your cur­rent abil­i­ty and where to start exer­cis­ing. From there, the com­put­er instant­ly checks your per­for­mance and adjusts the chal­lenge so that you are always pushed just a lit­tle bit hard­er. Hard enough to keep you work­ing, but not so hard that you become frus­trat­ed and give up.

Fur­ther­more, the com­put­er-based pro­grams have an almost unlim­it­ed capa­bil­i­ty to exer­cise the same skills with an end­less vari­ety of stim­uli. This means you get to prac­tice the skill over time, but in a way that allows it to gen­er­al­ize ver­sus mere­ly becom­ing good at play­ing a spe­cif­ic game and noth­ing else.

By all means, take class­es, read, and do engag­ing things you enjoy. It’s all good for your brain. Just don’t get lulled into think­ing you’ve got a com­plete brain fit­ness pro­gram when you don’t.

You must use your brain in order to improve it, and learn­ing new things using more of your brain than doing the same old thing. So, do take class­es and do things that inter­est you, but look at adding a com­put­er­ized brain fit­ness pro­gram to ensure you’re get­ting a com­plete workout.

Fur­ther Reading:

About SharpBrains

SHARPBRAINS is an independent think-tank and consulting firm providing services at the frontier of applied neuroscience, health, leadership and innovation.
SHARPBRAINS es un think-tank y consultoría independiente proporcionando servicios para la neurociencia aplicada, salud, liderazgo e innovación.

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