Are there any benefits of brain training apps?
Science & Tech / /
Many of the apps and video games are expected to be entertaining and fun for the users, and that’s pretty much all that is expected from them. But there is an idea of “brain training” that goes parallel with the entertainment. Mainly that’s the idea behind plenty of apps on the market today.
Figuring out whether apps and video games actually “train our brain” is almost as complicated as creating them. As soon as they are exposed on the virtual shelves, the validity of their claims is called into question.
A new study found that one popular app, Lumosity, doesn’t do anything for your brain training, other than helping you improve at playing the game.
Even though generalization based on a single study can’t be used to make any conclusions regarding the benefits of brain training games as a whole, it still highlights an important point:
It’s difficult not only to create the right type of brain training exercise for a specific behavior or condition, but also to figure out if that training actually works.
As Popular Science reports, the logic behind these brain training apps is based on the idea that certain brain circuits are involved in a type of cognitive performance called delayed discounting, which is your preference for choosing immediate, smaller rewards versus waiting for a bigger reward, as well as one called risk sensitivity—whether you choose reliable or risky rewards.
Scientists have concluded that taking immediate rewards is usually associated with unhealthy behavior as smoking, drinking, and generally being prone to addictions. Apps like Lumosity supposedly strengthen these same brain circuits to help people focus more and avoid quick and unhealthy decisions.
Additional problem is that we don’t know much about neuroscience.
The thing about brain training games, says Joaquin Anguera, an assistant professor of neurology at the University of San Francisco School of Medicine, is that there are a number of different modules and games to choose from—and all of them work different neural networks in the brain. It could be that one app on the market does help improve one certain type of brain behavior, but we just haven’t pinned those results down yet.
This specific study included a group of 128 young adults split up into two sets. One group received 10 weeks of training with Lumosity, while the control group, played video games for 10 weeks. Ten weeks before and after the research, scientists tested the cognitive abilities of the participants to see how well each group would perform. The results showed that both of them improved by the end of the study, but on average, the improvement was the same. The same cognitive test was also given to a third group that didn’t receive any training at all and it came up that the improvement was about as much as with the game players.
The conclusion was that the more you play a game, the better you are going to be at it. But the fact that you can master it still doesn’t mean you are going to do better in school or quit your smoking habit.