Sharp Brains: Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News

Neuroplasticity, Brain Fitness and Cognitive Health News


10-Question Checklist to evaluate products making brain fitness and cognitive health claims


Eval­u­at­ing the use­ful­ness of com­put­er-based brain fit­ness pro­grams depends on many fac­tors such as the goals, pri­or­i­ties, start­ing point, bud­get, etc of the intend­ed user. There is no gen­er­al rank­ing of prod­ucts that would sat­is­fy every­body. This is why we have devel­oped a Brain Fit­ness Soft­ware Eval­u­a­tion Checklist.  When eval­u­at­ing a soft­ware pro­gram we rec­om­mend ask­ing the fol­low­ing 10 ques­tions:

  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 main­stream sci­en­tif­ic and pro­fes­sion­al jour­nals writ­ten by those sci­en­tists? How many? This is impor­tant to val­i­date the effec­tive­ness of a par­tic­u­lar pro­gram.
  3. Does the pro­gram tell me what part of my brain or which cog­ni­tive skill I am exer­cis­ing? What are the spe­cif­ic ben­e­fits claimed for using this pro­gram? Some pro­grams present the ben­e­fits in such an impre­cise way that it is impos­si­ble to tell if they will have any results or not…“brain exer­cise” itself is a very vague claim, because activ­i­ties like gar­den­ing or learn­ing a new lan­guage pro­vide brain exer­cise too. You need to see some­thing more spe­cif­ic, like what cog­ni­tive or emo­tion­al skill that pro­gram is aimed at.
  4. Is there an inde­pen­dent assess­ment to mea­sure my progress? The ques­tion is whether the improve­ment expe­ri­enced in the pro­gram will trans­fer into real life. To know if such trans­fer hap­pened 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 and chal­lenge.
  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 shown good short-term results in research envi­ron­ments but are very intense. Oth­ers may be more appro­pri­ate for use 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.

Keep learn­ing by read­ing more arti­cles in the Resources sec­tion, and also please con­sid­er join­ing our free month­ly Brain Fit­ness eNewslet­ter

This new online resource is based on the con­tent from the book The Sharp­Brains Guide to Brain Fit­ness (May 2009, $19.95), by Alvaro Fer­nan­dez and Dr. Elkhonon Gold­berg.

About SharpBrains

As seen in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC News, CNN, Reuters,  SharpBrains is an independent market research firm tracking how brain science can improve our health and our lives.

Search in our archives

Follow us and Engage via…

RSS Feed

Watch All Recordings Now (40+ Speakers, 12+ Hours)