Long-time correspondent Dan Rea recently put in a request for a look at the new industry of Brain Training, citing the example of the Luminosity program.
Before Dan’s email, I hadn’t really thought about it much, although I have heard quite a bit of discussion about it. The first things that brain training conjures up for me are those hokey ads featuring Delta Goodrem and Olivia Newton John with their little gadgets, playing games and claiming it improves their brain.
The second, and more annoying thing is that one of these crowds have appropriated another of science’s words! Luminosity. You know how much I hate it when that happens, so I’m not feeling very charitable towards them, regardless of the merits of the program.
The bottom line, however, is fairly simple to summarise. Brain training by repeating various tasks improves your brain… at doing those tasks. But nothing else. In addition, while a computer may make it more fun, or less arduous, it’s not better than good old pencil and paper.
Yes, brain training, is what we old folks call ‘learning’!
Want to train your brain at chess? Play more chess. Cricket? Play more cricket. Solve little puzzles? Do more puzzles. Golf? Play more golf.(although that last one doesn’t seem to work for me).
And, wow, even the normally credulous Fox News has a reasonably balanced article on this.
But by far the best summary is by Steve Novella on Science Based Medicine. In his no-nonsense article, he reviews the latest studies for us, and summarises the findings far better than I could.
This article is written from the point of view of a journalist who tries it out for themselves – an interesting first-person perspective, but basically the same findings.
So instead of shelling out for these programs, I suggest you pick whatever you want to improve, and just, well, practice.
And here’s an idea – instead of trying to improve your brain, improve your mind by practicing clear thinking – which is what this blog has been on about. So here’s a good place to start: one of my early posts on sorting fact from fiction. Enjoy.