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”.

To learn more, you can read:


  1. Derek Robertson on January 13, 2012 at 1:08

    Sur­prised to see no men­tion of pub­lished research about this games use in Scot­tish schools that car­ried out with Prifes­sor David Miller from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Dundee in Scotland. 

    Here is the case study about the intervention

    And here are the ref­er­ences for the papers

    1. Miller, D.J. & Robert­son, D.P. (2010). Using a games-con­sole in the pri­ma­ry class­room: effects of ‘Brain Train­ing’ pro­gramme on com­pu­ta­tion and self-esteem. British Jour­nal of Edu­ca­tion­al Tech­nol­o­gy, 41 (2), 242–255. 

    2. Miller, D.J. & Robert­son, D.P. (2010) Edu­ca­tion­al ben­e­fits of using games con­soles in a pri­ma­ry class­room: a ran­domised con­trolled tri­al. British Jour­nal of Edu­ca­tion­al Tech­nol­o­gy (in press)

  2. Alvaro Fernandez on January 16, 2012 at 11:09

    Dear Derek,

    Thank you for your com­ment. We did blog about that case study when the British press talked about it a cou­ple years ago. Please note that the blog post is titled “Does Nin­ten­do Brain Age work as a brain train­ing game?”, nei­ther “Does Nin­ten­do Brain Age work as edu­tain­ment” nor “Does Nin­ten­do Brain Age work as a moti­va­tion­al tool to engage stu­dents in doing math?”

    There is lit­tle seri­ous ques­tion that well-designed games can bring a vari­ety of “seri­ous” ben­e­fits, the ques­tion is whether real “brain train­ing” is one of those. The kind of research to answer that ques­tion would look much more like the one you can find here, for example:

    Please also take a look at the links includ­ed at the end of the arti­cle — I believe you’ll find them valuable.

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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