Study: Brain games don't make you smarter

Apr 20, 2010 By MARIA CHENG , AP Medical Writer

(AP) -- People playing computer games to train their brains might as well be playing Super Mario, new research suggests.

In a six-week study, experts found people who played online games designed to improve their didn't get any smarter.

Researchers recruited participants from viewers of the BBC's science show "Bang Goes the Theory." More than 8,600 people aged 18 to 60 were asked to play online brain games designed by the researchers to improve their memory, reasoning and other skills for at least 10 minutes a day, three times a week.

They were compared to more than 2,700 people who didn't play any brain games, but spent a similar amount of time surfing the Internet and answering general knowledge questions. All participants were given a sort of I.Q. test before and after the experiment.

Researchers said the people who did the brain training didn't do any better on the test after six weeks than people who had simply been on the Internet. On some sections of the test, the people who surfed the Net scored higher than those playing the games.

The study was paid for by the BBC and published online Tuesday by the journal Nature.

"If you're (playing these games) because they're fun, that's absolutely fine," said Adrian Owen, assistant director of the Cognition and Brain Sciences unit at Britain's Medical Research Council, the study's lead author. "But if you're expecting (these games) to improve your I.Q., our data suggests this isn't the case," he said during a press briefing on Tuesday.

One maker of brain games said the BBC study did not apply to its products. Steve Aldrich, CEO of Posit Science, said the company's games, some of which were funded in part by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, have been proven to boost .

"Their conclusion would be like saying, 'I cannot run a mile in under 4 minutes and therefore it is impossible to do so," Aldrich said.

Posit Science has published research in journals including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showing their games improved memory in older people.

Computer games available online and marketed by companies like Nintendo that supposedly enhance memory, reasoning and other cognitive skills are played by millions of people worldwide, though few studies have examined if the games work.

"There is precious little evidence to suggest the skills used in these games transfer to the real world," said Art Kramer, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at the University of Illinois. He was not linked to the study and has no ties to any companies that make brain training games.

Kramer had several reservations about the BBC study's methodology and said some brain games had small effects in improving people's cognitive skills. "Learning is very specific," he said. "Unless the component you are trained in actually exists in the real world, any transfer will be pretty minimal."

Instead of playing brain games, Kramer said people would be better off getting some exercise. He said physical activity can spark new connections between neurons and produce new brain cells. "Fitness changes the building blocks of the brain's structure," he said.

Still, Kramer said some games worked better than others. He said some games made by Posit Science had shown modest benefits, including improved memory in older people.

Other experts said brain games might be useful, but only if they weren't fun.

"If you set the level for these games to a very high level where you don't get the answers very often and it really annoys you, then it may be useful," said Philip Adey, an emeritus professor of psychology and neuroscience at King's College in London.

If people are enjoying the brain games, Adey said they probably aren't being challenged and might as well be playing a regular video game.

He said people should consider learning a new language or sport if they really wanted to improve their brain power. "To stimulate the intellect, you need a real challenge," Adey said, adding computer games were not an easy shortcut. "Getting smart is hard work."

Explore further: Altruistic behavior may be governed more by relationships than instincts, psychologist finds

More information: Nature: http://www.nature.com/nature

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User comments : 8

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Drregaleagle
5 / 5 (2) Apr 20, 2010
Uhh...let me get this straight. According to the article:
More than 8,600 people aged 18 to 60 were asked to play online brain games designed by the researchers to improve their memory, reasoning and other skills for at least 10 minutes a day, three times a week.

And the surprising conclusion of the study is:
All participants were given a sort of I.Q. test before and after the experiment...Researchers said the people who did the brain training didn't do any better on the test after six weeks than people who had simply been on the Internet.

Well, the games weren't designed to improve the skills needed to do well on an IQ test. Reasoning isn't homogeneous so all the skills required to succeed at the games had little to do with the questions on the IQ test.

THoKling
not rated yet Apr 20, 2010
IQ is a measure of knowledge and the application thereof. Brain games don't necessarily have as much to do with science. More information on which brain games equated to brain drain would be useful.
bottomlesssoul
not rated yet Apr 20, 2010
The brain games are exercises for different types of memory. They improve recall and storage but add nothing new for you to use the new found efficiency. If you follow those exercises with a different type of exercise that now adds new information to offer more complete context to decision making and you might get smarter.

Smarter has nothing to do with these exercises, think of them like bicep curls. Curls will strengthen your biceps yet strangely have no impact on calf strength or overall body health.
rwinners
not rated yet Apr 20, 2010
Does thinking encourage brain health? That is the question.
zevkirsh
not rated yet Apr 21, 2010
reading this is making my brain hurt.
donjoe0
not rated yet Apr 21, 2010
They were using the wrong games. The dual n-back game was clearly proven to improve general intelligence in an experiment about 2 years ago.
Game_Girl
not rated yet May 17, 2010
The best learning often takes place when we enjoy ourselves. Learning can include fun and play and still be educational. Brain training does not guarantee us of having a genius brain sometimes hardwork and perseverance in studying is a plus!
http://www.gamesy...-skills/
Game_Girl
not rated yet May 17, 2010
This is Brain training...http://www.gamesy...-skills/

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