How do you “exercise” your brain?
While it’s not like other parts of your body that you can move or stretch physically, it seems like different “workouts” for the brain are popping up virtually everywhere lately.
So do they work?
Well, that’s what Rui Nouchi, PhD and a team of researchers in Tokyo, Japan wanted to find out when they examined whether one of these “brain games” affected the cognitive functions of young adults.
They specifically looked at Brain Age, a video game involving training exercises that engage the brain through reading and math exercises.
Participants were randomized to an experimental group (who played Brain Age) and an active control group (who played Tetris), and each group played their assigned game for 15 minutes a day, five times a week, for four weeks.
After they played the games, participants took note of their scores and the game performance data.
To test cognitive function, the researchers used a number of tests. For example, they used the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST) to gauge cognitive flexibility, and the Stroop Task (ST) to measure response inhibition and impulsivity.
The researchers also used Operation Scans to test how the participants’ working memory improved after the four weeks. During this test, participants were asked to solve math problems while also remembering specific sets of words.
In total, 14 tests were administered.
So what did the researchers find?
After four weeks, the Brain Age group had better executive functions, working memory, and processing speed when compared with the Tetris group.
Now, while these results are promising for the use of brain training games as a way to exercise and strengthen the brain, it’s important to note that the study didn’t examine long term effects of the game play. Also, Brain Age is a multi-game program while Tetris is its own, stand-alone game. This could have played a role in the differing results.
Nonetheless, this study sheds light on ways we can give our brains an effective workout. And it gives us an idea of what kinds of activities have the most impact on how our brains function.
You can find more about this study in PLOS One.
If you’d like to find out more ways you can change your brain and think more clearly, learn more easily, strengthen your memory, and build better relationships, check out our webinar series on the Practical Brain Science. It’s a great place to start your journey towards a stronger, healthier brain and a bigger, more fulfilling life.
What types of brain training games have you tried – online or otherwise? How have they changed your life? Tell us about your experience in the comment section below.