Tips to navigate the brain training landscape

yThere is sig­nif­i­cant vari­a­tion around what prod­ucts are designed to do and around how much evi­dence there is to back them up. This wide vari­a­tion is often con­fus­ing for cus­tomers and even pro­fes­sion­als. Out of the hun­dreds of prod­ucts out there mak­ing brain train­ing claims we include in this guide the ones that have at the very least a well-artic­u­lat­ed sci­en­tif­ic ratio­nale, a basic lev­el of sci­en­tif­ic test­ing and con­sumer-usabil­i­ty, and are devel­oped by known orga­ni­za­tions which offer pro­fes­sion­al cus­tomer care.

Some com­pa­nies seem to be bet­ting that the main buy­ing cri­te­ria for their prod­ucts will not be clin­i­cal val­i­da­tion, but ease of use and engage­ment val­ue. Oth­er devel­op­ers are invest­ing in devel­op­ing the sci­ence that will enable them to make clin­i­cal claims, but their prod­ucts run the risk of being too repet­i­tive and unin­spir­ing for con­sumer audiences.

The major­i­ty of prod­ucts are sold as soft­ware that can be loaded onto a home com­put­er or lap­top. Some prod­ucts can only be used online. There are also devices, such as Nintendo’s Brain Age that only work on its DS plat­form, or Dakim’s touch screen computer.

In sum­ma­ry, there are mul­ti­ple fac­tors to take into con­sid­er­a­tion when select­ing a brain fit­ness product.  These fac­tors range from the lev­el of clin­i­cal val­i­da­tion to the user’s intend­ed goal.

Each buy­er, either con­sumer or pro­fes­sion­al, would do well to use the Check­list pro­vid­ed above before pur­chas­ing any prod­uct. To help you fur­ther, we have select­ed 21 Quick Picks by rat­ing pro­grams against the cri­te­ria in the Check­list based on our judg­ment, the evi­dence avail­able, and con­sumer and pro­fes­sion­al feed­back that we have received over the last 2 years.

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.

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