In the last week, we came across another study that says that neuroscientists have debunked the claims that a brain game results in a brain gain. No kidding!
Research scientists seem to be in love with the idea of contradicting the market hype about the value of brain games. And that’s a good thing. There is far too much hype. And too little understanding of the difference between a brain game and serious cognitive training (also called brain-training).
Cognitive training exercises have been in use for decades. They are utilized by a wide range of clinical disciplines – from speech pathology to vision therapy and from occupational therapy to neuro-rehab. Where the confusion sometimes arises is that cognitive training exercises can be delivered in a game format.
So, just the way that reading lessons or math facts or social studies knowledge can be turned into games, so too can cognitive training exercises. But games derived from serious subject matter (Serious Games) do not automatically ensure that they deliver the same degree of learning or change as the underlying pedagogy.
Saying that a typical “brain game” can yield measurable cognitive benefit that translates into real-world improvements is like saying that exercising the biceps of your left arm will lead to overall physical fitness.
Overall physical fitness requires exercising many sets of muscles, and building flexibility, and stamina, and then combining physical skills in ways that will translate to better performance on the basketball court or the track or the balance beam or the swimming pool.
The same principle applies to cognitive training. The ability to sustain attention (akin to physical stamina) has to be combined with cognitive flexibility (like physical changes of directions). Verbal and visual signals need to be integrated into meaningful events, as eye-hand coordination gets the puck near the goal or the football to the hands of the receiver.
We write from time to time about the neuroscience principles for effective cognitive training in a video-game format. We believe that they are why BrainWare SAFARI has consistently shown and impact on both cognitive and academic performance. Those principles are not embodied in a single brain game. A single brain game simply does not amount to brain training.
Here are our criteria for effective cognitive training in a video-game format.