Brain Training doesn't boost your brain power, tests suggest

Dr. Kawashima's floating, polygonal head is disappointed

Brain Training doesn't boost your brain power, tests suggest

The BBC science programme Bang Goes the Theory has put the claims of games like Dr Kawashima's Brain Training to the test, and has found their cognitive workouts to be largely ineffective.

The games, while entertainment products and never scientifically validated by Nintendo, are promoted as being inspired by Dr Kawashima's work in the neurosciences and claim to help keep your mind "sharp and focused", a Nintendo press release says.

The scientific study didn't use the DS game, but instead games designed by scientists from the Medical Research Council and the Alzheimer's Society.

The study followed 11,430 viewers of the BBC One programme, making it the largest ever study of this kind. "Participants were asked to do brain training 'workouts' for at least 10 minutes a day, three times a week for a minimum of six weeks," the BBC writes.

Each volunteer was randomlly assigned into one of three groups.

One group played games to train "short-term memory, attention, mathematical abilities, and visuospatial skills." Another played games to train their "reasoning powers, planning and problem-solving skills." The last group were given web-browsing tasks with no cognitive benefits in mind.

Six weeks later, the results are disappointing for fans of cerebral push-ups.

"Statistically," says Dr Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist at the Medical Research Council, "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."

While it is the largest of the studies carried out on the controversial claims of brain training software, its not the first and it doesn't entirely agree with previous findings.

A 2008 study of more than 600 pupils in 32 schools across Sctoland found that by playing Brain Training on the Nintendo DS every day, students improved test scores by 50 per cent, and shortened the time taken to complete the tests by five minutes.

However, a 2009 study by Alain Lieury, Professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Rennes in France, found that the Nintendo DS game was no more effective than completing puzzles with pencils and paper, or simply going to school as normal.

The Brain Training series of games may be enjoyable software, but their positive effect on the brain still remains unproven.

BBC News