Recently, there has been a great spotlight on brain training apps such as Lumosity. These apps claim to improve cognitive functions such as attention, memory and reaction times. However, research has shown these apps are not effective in improving these cognitive functions.

The main reason seems to be that individuals are only improving at playing the specific games on these brain training apps. For example, if they have been playing a memory game and have improved on this game over time, the results are not generalisable to other memory tasks. If they were later presented with a new memory task they will perform similarly to control groups that had not used brain training apps at all.

Although brain training apps may not be able to improve general cognitive function, there are many other methods that have been scientifically proven to help. We now know that the brain is malleable and new neuronal pathways can be formed at any time.

Some ways to improve the brain’s ability to create these new pathways include the following:

Exercise:

Studies have found that certain hormones that are released during exercise can help with improving our memory. The brain needs a good deal of oxygen in order to function. Exercise provides the flow of nutrient-rich blood efficiently throughout the body. Exercise also increases the creation of mitochondria which is the powerhouse of the cell – providing the energy that our brains need. Exercise also improves neurogenesis, the reparation of neurons in the brain.

Sleep:

There is ample evidence that sleep deprivation causes a decline in cognitive function. Naturally, an adequate amount of sleep is necessary to consolidate learning and memory. A study has found that students not only retain more information after sleeping but their ability to understand and apply that knowledge increases too. This occurs because, during sleep, the brain consolidates new memories created throughout the day and moves them into long-term storage.

Cod Liver Oil Supplements:

Cod liver oil contains a high amount of Omega 3 fatty acids which are necessary for several cognitive functions. Clinical trials have shown that cod liver oil supplements appear to promote benefits in working memory. Another study has shown that in young adults with a low fish intake, supplementation improved memory retention and reaction time. In older adults, there has also been found to be a relationship between supplementation and verbal fluency. A higher intake of fish and seafood is also correlated with a decreased risk of suffering from dementia. So, go whip up some fish finger sandwiches.

Learning new skills:

Research shows that learning a language or learning a new instrument increases brain volume and strengthens neural pathways. This is not only limited to these skills – acquiring any new skills changes the brains structure and strengthens the neural pathways that already exist in your brain. However, these new skills must be something we find challenging. Passive activities do not have the same effects. So if there is something you always wished you could do but found it challenging, now is as good a time as any to start learning! Your brain will thank you for it as you age.

In Conclusion:

Although they can make us feel productive and active in improving our mental ability, brain training apps may not be worth paying any money for. The money would be better spent on exercise, diet, acquiring new skills or getting yourself a comfier mattress. These activities have a much greater effect on our cognition and are much more worth doing.

 


 

References:

https://www.simplysupplements.co.uk/healthylife/supplements/cod-liver-oil

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-does-exercise-benefit-cognition/

http://www.learningscientists.org/blog/2016/7/14-1

https://www.huffingtonpost.com.au/2017/01/18/heres-how-picking-up-a-new-skill-can-help-your-brain_a_21657171/

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2 thoughts on “Why Brain Training Apps Don’t Work

  1. Brain training is not the correct way to put it, or to expect from the apps. Anything that stimulates thought process, helps in making decisions, least of all, nurtures our curiosities, and moves us to behave positively, maybe hurls something new or different at us, may qualify as a brain training app. The app stores are full of such paid, unpaid and highly-advertised apps, but it never can give works-or-moneyback guarantee. Reason being that the learning, practice or expertise they say they offer is not age-specific, countable, and not at all infusing spark in users, not to mention that one has to withstand the annoying, intrusive and distracting ads. Is the mind functioning getting any better or is the application masking the time-tested, proven effective methods of learning such as board games, books, and studies or simply, good habits and balanced diet? When you are being drawn by such apps, think about what your weak areas are, and if the app gives any suitable actionable know-how.

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