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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:

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2 Responses

  1. Derek Robertson says:

    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. 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.

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