News Article

BBC Study Suggests Brain Training Games are Ineffective

Posted by Zach Kaplan

Grey (doesn't) matter

Have you been playing Brain Training (known as Brain Age in the U.S.) or its sequel on your way to work, feeling good about yourself as you utilise your DS for something useful? Have you outsmarted your friends recently and thought, "there's that grey matter at work!"? According to a study recently published by the BBC, you're no smarter than the average gamer.

The study followed 11,430 people over six weeks to see what effect playing these games had, and found that the only thing that improved were the subjects' scores on the games themselves. Chosen from a pool of volunteers who view the BBC program Bang Goes the Theory, the players participated in ten minutes of brain training a day. The group was split into thirds, two of whom tried out different types of mental exercises during the experiment while the third just browsed the web.

According to Dr. Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist at the Medical Research Council:

The results are clear. Statistically, there are no significant differences between the improvements seen in participants who played our brain training games, and those who just went on the Internet for the same length of time.

Rebecca Wood of the Alzheimer's Research Trust suggests that scientists will conduct future experiments on the games' effect on cognition relative to age. Even so, this will surely be disheartening news to anyone who thinks that playing Brain Training games is enough to maintain their mental might.

[via news.bbc.co.uk]

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User Comments (20)

grenworthshero

#1

grenworthshero said:

Does anyone play these games actually thinking they're going to be getting smarter by the minute?

edhe

#3

edhe said:

When Brain Training was released, the titular Dr. Kawashima claimed (and with years of research of his own) that daily mental excercises help keep the brain active.

And now, another group of academics are saying otherwise.

So who do we believe?

Omega

#4

Omega said:

Ah, what an unpleasent surprise. I have played Dr. Kawashima and Wii Sports for hours to be beautiful, athletic and intelligent. And now it turns out that it was a waste of time? :-p

V8_Ninja

#5

V8_Ninja said:

Well, at least it doesn't make us more stupid like what every other game does. :P * 999

sillygostly

#6

sillygostly said:

Oh, please. These games were designed to keep the brain alert, and little else. Bloody pretentious pseudo-intellectual academics. =/

MrWout

#7

MrWout said:

@ edhe
It is just as you say, it helps to keep the brain active which doesn't mean you get smarter. The BBC study didn't say it doesn't keep the brain active.

They didn't test on the BBC if it helps the brain from deteriorating with age. For example if old people keep their brain active with brain training, puzzles or crosswords if this helps them retain their "brain power". And I think this is one of the areas where it does show its premise, because all it is is just a fun way to keep your brain active.

Earendel68

#9

Earendel68 said:

Ohhh damn!!!! Later maybe someone will come saying than playing Sudoku does not work with the brain either...

I have to admit than I trusted playing this games will keep my mind "younger" (not necessarily to be "smarter", we have books to achieve that). And I am fan of these games too

paulesungnomo

#10

paulesungnomo said:

hehe that's funny. i got those brain age games free with my dsi xl and erased them that same day. It's stupid to presume that a game made up of simple exercises will make you any smarter than any other game. I mean, were people really dumb enough to think that those games were any more challenging to your brain that say, professor layton or the art style games? who says a puzzle in spirit tracks is any less effective for keeping your mind alert than kawashima's boring games? most video games involve problem solving in one way or another, and like Earendel68 said: we don't play games to get smarter, that's what books are for.

Kirk

#11

Kirk said:

It really doesn't matter what these people say because common sense tells you that exercising your brain in various ways is obviously better than doing nothing with it, and playing a game like Brain Training is exercising your brain.

Percentful

#12

Percentful said:

10 minutes seems like it is too short, but I doubt there would have been a difference had it been 50 minutes a day.

SwerdMurd

#14

SwerdMurd said:

not exactly shocked. Games always seemed useless--good to know I was right to give up on the first Brain Training DS game almost immediately.

MarkyVigoroth

#15

MarkyVigoroth said:

So, there is no substitute of actual learning. (Of course, the learning has to be fun or at least tolerable to be effective.)

zemulii

#16

zemulii said:

Exactly Kirk, this little "six week study" seems to have missed the point of the games entirely (and several commenters here too). If you're young and playing the games to get "smarter" then yes, you are right to have given up... Especially if you're not enjoying it. Brain Training is simply a way to keep your brain stimulated. Which IS beneficial in the long run.

SuperJim64

#18

SuperJim64 said:

A six week non double blinded study that trying to answer a flawed question. I mean come on, I hope no one gave these fools a grant for this. I would love to see the full published report. (If they even published with a real journal like Journal of neuro science not the BBC). This kind of stuff isn't even his specialty!

tovare

#19

tovare said:

Links to the report, the games etc.
http://web.me.com/adrian.owen/site/Home.html

I still believe that intelligence can be improved through various forms of problem solving and creative stimuli. I guess what the report is indicating saying is that repetetive and simple gameplay doesn't help.

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