Scientists to Stanford: Research Shows Brain Exercises Can Work (Press release):
“A group of 127 scientists sent an “open letter” to the Stanford Center for Longevity, today, in reaction to a recent statement by the center that was highly critical of the emerging science of brain training and derogated the efficacy of all brain exercises…The letter is signed by 127 doctors and scientists, many of whom are luminaries in the field of neuroplasticity – the discipline that examines the brain’s ability to change. Signatories include members of the National Academy of Sciences, members of the Institute of Medicine, department chairs and directors of programs and institutes, as well as scientists who are founders of neuroscience companies. The signatories include scientists from 18 countries around the world.
“Over the last four decades, I’ve worked with scores of scientists and thousands of generous volunteer participants in scientific studies of cognitive training,” Dr. Ball said. “Those studies show that properly designed brain exercises can drive significant cognitive and quality of life benefits.”
Dr. George Rebok of Johns Hopkins University has also co-authored many papers in the field and was on a team that conducted, and published, a systematic review of computerized cognitive interventions.
“In doing that review, my colleagues and I spent many months analyzing data from more than 150 publications and concluded that cognitive training can improve cognitive abilities,” Dr. Rebok said. “I declined to sign the longevity center statement because it was not supported by that type of rigorous scientific review, and signed the open letter response, because it is important to accurately state what the research shows.“
The Open Letter (opens new page; excerpt below):
“To the Stanford Center on Longevity:
On October 20, 2014, you released a statement presented as “A Consensus on the Brain Training Industry from the Scientific Community.” We agree strongly with parts of your statement, agree substantially with other parts, but are compelled to sign this letter to express our concern that many readers of your statement might wrongly conclude that there is no evidence that any cognitive training regimen can improve cognitive function. Given our significant reservations with the statement, we strongly disagree with your assertion that it is a “consensus” from the scientific community.
We cannot agree with the part of your statement that says “there is no compelling scientific evidence” that brain exercises “offer consumers a scientifically grounded avenue to reduce or reverse cognitive decline.” We fear that most readers would take this to mean there is little or no peer-reviewed evidence that certain brain exercises have been shown to drive cognitive improvements. There is, in fact, a large and growing body of such evidence. That evidence now includes dozens of randomized, controlled trials published in peer-reviewed journals that document specific benefits of defined types of cognitive training. Many of these studies show improvements that encompass a broad array of cognitive and everyday activities, show gains that persist for a reasonable amount of time, document positive changes in real-life indices of cognitive health, and employ control strategies designed to account for “placebo” effects. While we can debate strengths and limitations of each study, it is a serious error of omission to ignore such studies in a consensus reviewing the state of this science.”