Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

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Brain Fitness Software and Training Games

Unless you have been liv­ing in a cave, you have read by now mul­ti­ple arti­cles about the brain train­ing and brain exer­cise craze: sudoku, Nin­ten­do BrainAge, mul­ti­ple online games, soft­ware like Mind­Fit and Posit Sci­ence…

If you are look­ing for some fun men­tal stim­u­la­tion now, here you have our selec­tion of Brain Teasers.

Now, how do you know which of the new pro­grams can help you more, or whether you need any of them? which ones are sim­ply enter­tain­ing Games vs. which ones look like “Games” but are real­ly Train­ing, improv­ing, spe­cif­ic cog­ni­tive and emo­tion­al skills? Well, that’s why we are pub­lish­ing the Sharp­Brains Check­list below, to help you nav­i­gate through the over­whelm­ing and con­flict­ing media reports and com­pa­ny announce­ments.

We have spent over 18 months inter­view­ing sci­en­tists and review­ing avail­able Brain Fit­ness and Exer­cise Pro­grams world­wide, and want to share with you, right now, the research-based cri­te­ria we use to eval­u­ate them.

10 Ques­tions to Choose the Right Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for You (and a brief expla­na­tion of why each ques­tion is impor­tant)

* 1. Are there sci­en­tists, ide­al­ly neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists, and a sci­en­tif­ic advi­so­ry board behind the pro­gram?

(Neu­ropsy­chol­o­gists spe­cial­ize in mea­sur­ing and under­stand­ing human cog­ni­tion and brain struc­ture and func­tion.)

* 2. Are there pub­lished, peer-reviewed sci­en­tif­ic papers in PubMed writ­ten by those sci­en­tists? How many?

(Pubmed is a ser­vice of the U.S. Nation­al Library of Med­i­cine that includes mil­lions of cita­tions sci­ence jour­nals. If a sci­en­tist has not pub­lished a paper that appears in that data­base, he or she can­not make sci­en­tif­ic claims.)

* 3. What are the spe­cif­ic ben­e­fits claimed for using this pro­gram?

(Some pro­grams present the ben­e­fits in such a neb­u­lous way that it is impos­si­ble to tell if they will have any results or not…“brain train­ing” itself is a lim­it­ed ben­e­fit, because activ­i­ties like gar­den­ing or learn­ing a new lan­guage pro­vide “brain train­ing too”…you need to see some­thing more spe­cif­ic, like what cog­ni­tive or emo­tion­al skill that pro­gram is aimed at)

* 4. Does the pro­gram tell me what part of my brain or which cog­ni­tive skill I am exer­cis­ing, and is there an inde­pen­dent assess­ment to mea­sure my progress?

(The ques­tion is whether the improve­ment expe­ri­enced in the pro­gram will trans­fer into real life. For that to hap­pen we need assess­ments that are dis­tinct from the exer­cis­es them­selves.)

* 5. Is it a struc­tured pro­gram with guid­ance on how many hours per week and days per week to use it?

(Brain exer­cise is not a mag­ic pill. You have to do the exer­cis­es in order to ben­e­fit, so you need clar­i­ty on the effort required.)

* 6. Do the exer­cis­es vary and teach me some­thing new?

(The only way to exer­cise impor­tant parts of our brain is by tack­ling nov­el chal­lenges.)

* 7. Does the pro­gram chal­lenge and moti­vate me, or does it feel like it would become easy once I learned it?

(Good brain exer­cise requires increas­ing lev­els of dif­fi­cul­ty)

* 8. Does the pro­gram fit my per­son­al goals?

(Each indi­vid­ual has dif­fer­ent goals/ needs when it comes to brain health. For exam­ple, some want to man­age anx­i­ety, oth­ers to improve short-term mem­o­ry…)

* 9. Does the pro­gram fit my lifestyle?

(Some brain exer­cise pro­grams have great short-term results but are very intense. Oth­ers may be bet­ter over time)

* 10. Am I ready and will­ing to do the pro­gram, or would it be too stress­ful?

(Excess stress reduces, or may even inhib­it, neu­ro­ge­n­e­sis-the cre­ation of new neu­rons-. So, it is impor­tant to make sure not to do things that stress us in unhealthy ways.)

We hope this infor­ma­tion is use­ful. Feel free to share it!

For more infor­ma­tion on each ques­tion and print­able lay­outs, see:

SharpBrains Checklist 10 Ques­tions to Choose the Right Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for You
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SharpBrains Checklist Bookmark 10 Ques­tions to Choose the Right Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for You (book­mark size)
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You can also find more infor­ma­tion in our Brain Fit­ness Top­ics sec­tion. And over 40 stim­u­lat­ing mind games in our Brain Teasers sec­tion.

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16 Responses

  1. Thanks for the list! I just found out about these brain exer­cis­es. I will def­i­nite­ly give it a go soon and keep those ques­tions in mind.

  2. Alvaro says:

    Carl: glad to hear that the check­list is help­ful!

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