Many people believe brain training exercises work for improving intelligence, increasing memory, and even helping to ward off dementia. How do brain training exercises work? Here are eight facts that help explain how the process works.
1. According to the theory of brain plasticity, the human brain learns new skills and adapts to changes throughout the life span, including late in life. Using this theory, it’s never too late for an individual to start brain training for better memory and enhanced cognitive ability. Growing awareness of the brain’s plasticity has revolutionized the field of neuroscience, says neuroscientist Henry Mahncke.
2. In order for brain training to work, the brain must be engaged “in a very deep way,” according to Dr. Adam Gazzaley of the Neuroscience Imaging Center at the University of California – University of California. The more immersed a person is in the brain training, the greater its effect will be.
3. “Brain games” and “brain training” are two different things. Brain games are entertaining, but to reach the level of brain training, an activity must be specifically tailored to the way the human brain processes information.
4. A form of yoga that involves meditation may also help with cognition. The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease published a study showing that the yoga-meditation combination was linked to an increase in visuospatial memory, an effect that could be seen on study participants’ MRI scans.
5. Training in one task doesn’t lead to overall improvement across all tasks. If one wants to improve in one specific cognitive task, one must practice brain training tasks closely related to the desired skill.
6. Multiple object tracking and visual attention tasks have been shown to help older drivers retain better reaction times when driving. One study showed that seniors who have these specific types of brain training reduce their risk of being involved in an at-fault auto accident by 48%.
7. Engaging in activities one enjoys has been shown over and over again to be good for mental health. If one enjoys reading, working crossword puzzles, and doing other tasks that require cognitive engagement, one should certain keep up, and seek out, these pleasurable activities.
8. The neuroscientists who develop brain training programs encourage further scientific study to make the field of brain training even better. Some day, Dr. Gazzaley notes, the FDA could approve therapeutic video games the way it does supplements. The makers of brain training apps and their users agree: more information is a good thing.
Scientific research into brain training is ongoing, and so far, neuroscientists have uncovered these eight interesting clues, and a lot more. In the future, look for brain training apps to become more immersive and engaging. Meanwhile, consumers should find one they enjoy for the double benefits of pleasure and cognitive training.