Does ‘Brain Training’ Really Work Or It’s Just An Empty Marketing Pit?

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Our brain is the largest organ in our body. It is a network of billion cells, called neurons. Each neuron receives, and sends a signal ‘’message’’ from the brain to the body. Neurons can connect with each other and form a neural network. This neural network can develop a new part of the brain that is called cognition. Cognition is a valuable ‘’property’’ of every human being. A valuable ‘’property’’ that includes the abilities to think, learn, remember and understand the things around us.

However, using these mental abilities is different for everyone. Not everyone shares the same perception or experience. Not, everyone sees the world through the same ‘’lenses’’. But, yet everyone is capable of improving these abilities, and ‘’invest’’ in them.This improvement includes intense brain ‘’fitness’’ or brain training. The brain training is a set of brain exercises that are played specifically for strengthening those abilities. So I wonder is this brain ‘’workout’’ really effective or is just a an empty talk ?

align-thoughts-how-to-train-your-brainImgCredits-pixabay.com

One study shows that it is all in our mind. This study was published in the journal ‘’Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences’’. Her results revealed that the IQ of some people had ‘’jumped’’ by 10 points, only because they believed that the brain training was really productive for them. The researchers used these results to ‘’trigger’’ the other perspective on brain training. A perspective, that is strongly ‘’tied’’ to our beliefs. It could be tied to a belief that the brain games are really ‘’boosting’’ up our mind. Or, it could be tied to a belief that they are not causing any effect, except wasting our time. It is entirely our own choice. We choose what we believe in.

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In order to confirm that this ‘placebo effect’ is real , researchers from the George Mason University have conducted a new study. They created two different invitations for students to join the study.

  1. In the first invitation students were asked to join a study whose goal was to train their brain.
  2. And in the second the students were encouraged to join a study whose aim was to provide them more credits.

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So, the decision to join in the first or in the second group was completely up to them. This decision was mostly determined by the student’s interest. So they self-selected themselves in both of the groups. They did the same brain tasks. The only difference was the belief of the students for involving in this study. Although the experiment lasted shortly, still at the end, the findings of the study confirmed the researchers’ assumption. As they suspected the students who believed that the training will ‘upgrade’ their brain scored 5-10 points more than the students from the other group. “I wasn’t too surprised. After talking with others in the field, it was clear that methodological flaws could be leading to some of the positive outcomes in published work”indicated Cyrus Foroughia scientists at the ‘’Naval Research Laboratory’’, and also the person who conducted this study, while he was a graduate student.

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It was also discovered that the brief time of the study was actually too brief to provide any development of the brain. So, these discoveries suggest that the real benefit of many brain games is ‘’hidden’’ in our own beliefs. But, Henry Mahncke, the CEO of Posit Science, disputed the study outcome. He identified that this study was expected to show these points, because according to him only few ‘trials’ of brain training could possibly end with different results.“There’s study after study that are randomized placebo-controlled trials of brain-training, and in those studies, both groups of people have equivalent expectations that they’re going to benefit. So if there is a placebo effect, it washes out across those groups,”clarified Henry.

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On the other hand , many experts reject this idea of brain ‘’aerobic’’. They strongly disagree that it could increase our overall intelligence. And , for them it is just a simple waste of money. However , there are also experts who consider that this brain training ‘business’ is still ‘’fresh’’ and new. They believe that it is too soon too ‘jump’ to any conclusions. Dr. Adam Gazzaley, a professor at the University of California explains that scientists have come to the central point of their research. The point where the gathered knowledge , and information about the brain training can really help them in their further study.

He explained: ‘’A major limitation in what we have seen so far is that in order to change the brain in a meaningful and sustainable way, despite the fact that it’s plastic, you really have to engage it in a very deep way. We need to develop far more immersive therapeutic video games, in addition to doing better studies.’’ But, a paper of seven researchers claims something different. This paper was published in the journal ‘’Psychological Science in the Public Interest’’. It argues that there are not enough evidences to support the fact that there is a real brain training effect. They wrote :“Many studies are suggestive of benefits. Yet most studies have lacked adequate controls for placebo effects, have tested sample sizes that are much too small, and have not fully reported and analyzed all outcome measures.

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Daniel Simons, the lead author of the paper explained that the researchers studied, and analyzed more than 132 papers. He further said that they were all published, and cited from supportive companies that believe in the benefit of training our brain. But at the end he added :‘’Our review suggests that there is little compelling evidence for real-world benefits of existing brain-training products.’’  Quite the contrary Mahncke, the CEO of Posit Science,has a totally different opinion. He considered the paper review to be silly, and said :“This is just a bunch of old-school psychologists, and what they’ve done is, they have theories from more than 100 years ago that explain why brain-training can’t possibly work. I’ve just never seen a less even-handed review.”

 Brain Is Like A Plastic, Capable Of Changing Itself 

However, there is one thing Mahnicke agrees about. He agrees that ‘’exercising’’ only one skill of the brain, doesn’t improve the whole brain. He said : ‘’Most rely on the idea that training a basic cognitive mechanism using one task will lead not just to improved performance on that task but on all other tasks that rely on the same basic mechanism. We did not find compelling evidence that training on one task in one context generalizes to other tasks in other contexts.”But , he also explicitly said : “There’s been an absolute revolution, not in psychology but in neuroscience, over the past 30 years. What we’ve learned from this revolution in neuroscience is that the brain is what we call plastic. It’s capable of changing itself, depending on what you do with it.’’

So, according to many researchers, leading a physically, and socially active life can strengthen neural connections or produce positive changes in the brain. And from their findings, that is the best advice for having a healthy brain.

 Here’s How To Train Your Brain To Become Smarter

  1. Surround yourself with the smart. Try not to be the smartest in the room. Your intelligence is just the average of all members you are surrounded with.
  2. Read more. No doubt that reading helps your brain in a humongous manner. Make it a daily routine.
  3. Revise what you understand. Write down what you think about an idea. One common thing among the intelligent men like Einstein and Newton was that they were diary keepers. So going back and revising your thoughts helps your brain to work on its memory significantly.
  4. Sleep is the most essential and basic ingredient for a proper brain functioning, its like water for the human body. Drink lots of it.
  5. Feed your brain with new things, the more you put yourself into new things and experiences, the more your brain creates new pathways and grows smarter.

Concluding Thoughts 

We all know what physical training is. It is a combination of exercises for the body. And, almost everyone is practicing, or doing some kind of exercises for their body. Some of them are practicing aerobic, and some of them are exercising fitness. However, there is also a ‘’fitness’’ for the brain. It is called the brain training. And, even though not everyone believes in this concept of mental ‘’fitness’’, there are some people who believe. The people , who believe, are actually the people, who are doing the total brain ‘’workout’’ every day. These people, including me, believe that there is an ‘impact’ from the brain training. This impact is enabling our brain to ’’grow’’ into a more productive, and creative mind. And, if there is a chance for us to become more productive , and creative , then I think we should all start to ‘play’ our brain.

Do you follow any brain training exercises? Share your thoughts on the comments section below. Also subscribe with us and stay aligned with life.

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Ljupka is a freelance writer at AlignThoughts focused on Science and Technology.