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Study discredits the effectiveness of Brain Age

Researchers at the University of Rennes, Brittany, have concluded that Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training or Brain Age is no more effective at improving your cognitive abilities than playing Scrabble or completing Sudoku puzzles.

Brain Age is a puzzle video game published and developed by Nintendo for the Nintendo DS portable video game console. It has been marketed as a tool for improving your mental sharpness and is an example of a game that appealed to a very wide audience that reached beyond traditional gamers.

Alain Lieury professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Rennes stated, “The Nintendo DS is a technological jewel. As a game it’s fine, but it would be charlatanism to claim that it is a scientific test.”

To back their claims with evidence the research team experimented on 67 10-year-old children. The first two groups undertook a seven-week memory course using the Nintendo DS; the third group completed puzzles using just a pencil and paper; the fourth group did no extra work outside of their regular school curriculum.

Logic, memory, and mathematical tests carried out before and after the study were compared and children who were trained on the Nintendo DS failed to show any significant improvements in memory tests.

According to the Telegraph, Nintendo defended its edutainment titles such as Brain Age, stating that it had never claimed the games were scientifically proven to improve cognitive function. In the words of a Nintendo spokes person, “The challenges in Brain Training and More Brain Training are inspired by the exercises developed by respected neurologist Dr Kawashima, who believes that the brain needs to be exercised to help stay fit in the same way that our bodies need exercise to stay in shape,”.
Brain Age has been a sales success that has been able to appeal to more than traditional gamers. Developing games that appeal to a wider audience has brought Nintendo incredible success both with the Nintendo DS and the Nintendo Wii. Although this study may discredit the effectiveness of Brain Age, future Brain Age titles will most likely still see success thanks to Nintendo's clever marketing. 

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No kidding
By oab on 1/28/2009 10:38:11 AM , Rating: 3
All the adverts I'd seen showed old(er) people with heads photoshopped smaller to show that the brain shrinks with age, and that the exercises/games included in Brain Age helped keep the brain active by performing basic things like reading, arithmetic and short-term memory work. Implying that it would help keep your cognitive functions longer than someone who does not play it.

Other research ahs shown that stimulating the brain daily helps decrease the chances/progression/onset of alzheimers. Including activities such as crosswords, sudoku puzzles, and other logic games, which Brain Age includes.

RE: No kidding
By othercents on 1/28/2009 10:43:13 AM , Rating: 2
Exactly, their study group was way too young. They should have used people over 25. Studies have shown that at 25 your body quits growing and starts to deteriorate. I would love to see a study of 60 year old people all retired that normally just watch TV and sleep all day try to play brain age and see if they get better.


RE: No kidding
By CoolDuckie on 1/28/2009 4:49:50 PM , Rating: 2
Unfortunately, the studies you probably refer to are a) epidemiological, correlational studies that mixes cause and effect (solving puzzles at 80 does not necessarily keep you brain fit, it is rather a sign of brain fitness), or b) studies that studies effect of practise using tests that are similar to the practise tasks. As another poster here said, we all get better at what we practise, but that does not mean that skill will generalize to other situations than that of the practise tasks.

I am a neuropsychologist with a Phd in an old-age psychology related field, and I can tell you that research in this field has been a huge disappointment. Should I give anybody sound advise on keeping the brain fit, I'd say: 1) Do hard aerobic exercise for at least 30 minute a day, ) stay in a slight calorie deficit, and 3) live a generally stimulating life.


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