Brain training does not cause general improvement in brain function

By | April 21, 2010

All in the mind: the study found no general benefit from brain training In recent years people have been urged to treat their brain like a muscle, and train it regularly to keep it in top condition.

In other words, use it or lose it.

But now British researchers have scuttled the theory, with a study finding no general benefit from brain training.

The researchers recruited about 11,500 people and asked them to log on to a website and practice brain training tasks for 10 minutes a day, three times a week.

After six weeks, they compared the participants’ scores from the beginning and end of the exercise.

“The results were pretty surprising. There was really no change at all,” said Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist with Britain’s Medical Resource Council and an author of the study, which was published this morning in Nature magazine.

“That’s not to say they didn’t improve at anything at all, the stuff that they practised at, they obviously got better at.

“The actual training test they improved, but that’s not terribly surprising. What’s really surprising is that there was no transfer effects. No general change in cognitive function.”

Dr Owen says the number of participants they recruited is a huge number and gives them a lot of statistical power and the ability to detect even tiny differences.

“We had 12 different brain training tests because we really wanted to cover all of our bases,” he said.

“These tests are very sensitive to small changes in general cognitive function. So I’m quite confident that if there had been a difference, we would have detected it.” …

via UK research casts doubt on brain training – ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).

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