Reader Theresa Cerulli just forwarded this Letter to the Editor that she had sent to the New York Times and went unpublished. The letter addresses the OpEd mentioned here (pitching physical vs. mental exercise), and refers to the Cogmed working memory training program, whose results have been studied in multiple papers published in top medical and scientific journals.
I applaud Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang for throwing some cold water on the current brain fitness craze in their recent New York Times Magazine Opinion Editorial “Exercise on the Brain.” They are correct in labeling the host of “mental fitness” products that target aging baby boomers as “inspired by science ” not to be confused with actually proven by science. For the last 30 years, terms like “brain plasticity” have been widely and casually used, creating hype that risks drowning out the real breakthroughs that brain researchers are making in this area.
However, I would like to distinguish the “mental fitness” trend that Aamodt and Wang rightly criticize from actual researched-based cognitive training such as the Cogmed program developed in Sweden. Unlike “mental fitness” programs, cognitive training programs focus very narrowly on specific cognitive functions that research has shown to be plastic. This is in stark contrast to compiling a smattering of exercises or activities that are generally thought to be [Read more…] about Physical and Mental Exercise: Why Pitch One Against the other?