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Nintendo Science Games

Brain Training Games Don't Train Your Brain 151

Posted by timothy
from the maybe-it-just-takes-more-than-6-weeks dept.
Stoobalou writes with this excerpt from Thinq.co.uk: "A new study has shown that brain training games do little to exercise the grey matter. Millions of people who have been prodding away at their Nintendo DS portable consoles, smug in the knowledge that they are giving their brains a proper work-out, might have to rethink how they are going to stop the contents of their skulls turning into mush."
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Brain Training Games Don't Train Your Brain

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @02:12PM (#31929040)

    It's one thing to ask whether these tests make you "smarter". But even the story [bbc.co.uk] says they improve speeds in taking the brain tests. I also notice that the control group didn't just sit there doing nothing, they used the Internet, which may have "exercised the brain" in some fashion, assuming they weren't reading /.

    Also, there does seem to be evidence that mental activity can ward off Alzheimer's [npr.org] and "Research has also found that cognitive leisure activities reduce the risk of cognitive decline. [nyu.edu]"

    Maybe it doesn't serve a practical purpose for some people, but it seems among the elderly at least there may be some benefit (?)

  • Wait, what? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Max Romantschuk (132276) <max@romantschuk.fi> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @02:18PM (#31929170) Homepage

    Practicing any skill requiring cognitive functions technically trains your brain.

    The question is, what are the effects that people who play these kinds of games are hoping for?

  • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @02:21PM (#31929244) Homepage

    ...that your brain mostly benefited from doing different and new things. Trying new experiences, foods, languages, even things as simple as taking different routes to work and back create new paths in the brain which lead to quicker thinking and better recollection.

    But if you take one new thing (a video game puzzle) and do the shit out of it, the value is rapidly lost.

    At least that's how I've had it explained.

  • by zero_out (1705074) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @02:25PM (#31929344)
    On average, PhD.s have much healthier brains than most people, even in their 90s or older. They have less incidence of dementia, alzheimers(sp?), and other forms of mental illness. Studies have shown that taking courses at community college, or learning a new language, can help sustain one's mental health in retirement.
  • by sznupi (719324) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @02:40PM (#31929694) Homepage

    Plus some kinds of activity seem to indeed increase performance of your brain...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N-back [wikipedia.org]
    http://brainworkshop.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net]

  • by Monkeedude1212 (1560403) on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @02:50PM (#31929858) Journal

    Actually I saw this interesting documentary, and one of the reasons humans excel over animals is that we "learn" instead of "understand".

    With two test groups, one of children, the other of chimpanzees.

    The first test there is a black box. The instructor shows them to tap the top of the box with a stick, tap the sides of the box, slide a piece on the top over, and turn a crank, and out comes a tasty treat. The kids follow this exact process and get rewarded with candy. Chimpanzees also follow this process and get treated with their own kind of reward (I think it was peanuts or something).

    In the second test, the box is identical, except for one thing. Instead of being black, the entire box is made of clear plexiglass. As an adult you could easily observe instantly that tapping the top and sides of the box, and sliding the item on top, do absolutely nothing. The only thing required to get the treat is to turn the crank. However, EVERY CHILD tested (and I believe it was more than a dozen) repeated the unnecessary steps, whereas only 1/3rd of chimps followed the steps, showing that 66% of Chimps were able to understand what was going on.

    Upon first reflection I thought they meant to say that children are idiots and chimpanzees clearly know whats going on, and are by far more intelligent than we've realized. But the documentary goes on to explain that this is actually a feature of human behavior that has promoted societal growth. Without the ability to ignore understanding and simply reproduce activities, mankind might not have reached the level it has today.

  • by PopeRatzo (965947) * on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:40PM (#31930748) Homepage Journal

    But that's not only for spoken language. learning a new programming language will also do the same thing.

    As will learning to play a musical instrument.

    There was a great Professor Emeritus in English at the University of Chicago, Wayne Booth, who is someone I admired greatly and knew well for many years. He took up the cello in his 70s and got good enough to play in a string quartet in his living room for friends. He was sharp as a razor to the end of his life at about 85. He taught me what a great thing it is to be an "amateur".

    He insisted on using an old DOS version of Nota Bene to write all his books and articles. He knew all of the many shortcut keys by heart, too, and wrote until he died around '05.

    He was definitely an example of the rule that if you want to keep your brain healthy, you have to use it and enjoy using it.

  • by Xaedalus (1192463) <Xaedalys AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday April 21, 2010 @03:44PM (#31930858)

    At the risk of being modded down (and the certain doom of being mocked), I feel compelled to follow up on this and feed the troll. I went the UoP route, and found out that many (perhaps most) of their online degree programs were little more than diploma mills at the time. And at that point I entered a rather profound depression because I realized I'd been a fool and had probably wasted tens of thousands of dollars (yes, smart people do get suckered too).

    However, it wasn't until later that I discovered that I might have actually lucked out. I got my Masters in Education - Curriculum & Instruction, which actually happens to be a very strong program in its own right, because of the sheer number of professional educators who take the UoP's Education grad-level courses, and teach them. All but two of my professors were educators, education professionals, or senior education management (the two that weren't - well, I considered asking for their photos to print out on my toilet paper so I could wipe my ass with their face - they were THAT bad). Not only that, but I learned a hell of a lot about education - the philosophy, the psychology, the pedagogy, and about how school districts operate when it comes to curriculum and teaching. And I was able to take all that information and apply it to my corporate world quite successfully. Which shocked the hell out of me because I initially thought my degree was worthless.

    If I must be flamed for saying I have a MAED from University of Phoenix, then flame me. I was taken in, as were many other people. But, surprisingly, I emerged with an actual graduate-level education in Education that was worth the hassle (which impressed my wife, who's a teacher herself), and has proved itself. I don't know now if UoP cleaned up their act. I suspect they have as they haven't lost their accreditation, the DoL hasn't found any new complaints, and now everyone and their uncle is getting in on the online education program.

In seeking the unattainable, simplicity only gets in the way. -- Epigrams in Programming, ACM SIGPLAN Sept. 1982

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