Do Brain Workouts Work? Science Isn’t Sure

Do brain games really help to stave off memory loss? Even though some companies tout that these types of games and activities may help with memory loss, the science behind it has not quite gotten as far as their claims. Read on to learn more and determine what you think may help, and what may not. Thanks for visiting us at Advocare of South Florida, providing geriatric care management and home care placement services throughout the Palm Beach, Juipter, West Palm Beach and Palm Beach Gardens areas.

Much of the focus of the brain fitness business has been on helping children with attention-deficit problems, and on improving cognitive function and academic performance in healthy children and adults. An effective way to stave off memory loss or prevent Alzheimer’s — particularly if it were a simple website or video game — is the “holy grail” of neuroscience, said Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, director of the neurocognitive disorders program at Duke Institute for Brain Sciences.

The problem, Dr. Doraiswamy added, is that the science of cognitive training has not kept up with the hype.

“Almost all the marketing claims made by all the companies go beyond the data,” he said. “We need large national studies before you can conclude that it’s ready for prime time.”

For centuries, scientists believed that most brain development occurred in the first few years of life — that by adulthood the brain was largely immutable. But over the past two decades, studies on animals and humans have found that the brain continues to form new neural connections throughout life.

But questions remain whether an intervention that challenges the brain — a puzzle, studying a new language or improving skill on a video game — can really raise intelligence or stave off normal memory loss.

A series of studies in recent years has suggested that certain types of game training can improve a person’s cognitive performance. In February 2013, however, an analysis of 23 of the best studies on brain training, led by the University of Oslo researcher Monica Melby-Lervag, concluded that while players do get better, the increase in skill hasn’t been shown to transfer to other tasks. In other words, playing Sudoku or an online matching game makes you better at the game, but it doesn’t make you better at math or help you remember names or where you left your car keys.

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