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Brain Training Games Don't Train Your Brain

timothy posted more than 3 years ago | from the maybe-it-just-takes-more-than-6-weeks dept.

Nintendo 151

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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Very well then (5, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 3 years ago | (#31928948)

No more brain training. It's back to killing it slowly with beer for me.

Re:Very well then (4, Funny)

Farmer Tim (530755) | more than 3 years ago | (#31928992)

With enough beer that's swimming training.

Re:Very well then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31929396)

That my friend might one day save your life, golden star for smart thinking!

Re:Very well then (1)

creimer (824291) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929310)

If you need /. to tell you to stop training your brain, you got serious problems you don't know about. Of course, that's where the beer comes in.

Re:Very well then (2, Funny)

krnpimpsta (906084) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929572)

no mroe brian traning;;l its back to klling it qiuckyl wirth irish car bmbs fr me

Re:Very well then (5, Informative)

blahplusplus (757119) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929814)

Regular exercise is still the best defense against an aging brain.

Re:Very well then (-1, Flamebait)

dintech (998802) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930752)

Yes, you might be as dumb as pig shit but at least you'll look buff.

Re:Very well then (2, Insightful)

immakiku (777365) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931156)

I hope you're being sarcastic, because your parent post isn't. Regular exercise has been shown to be important for many mental functions. Sitting around coding all day will probably make your brain duller than engaging in sports will.

Re:Very well then (2)

rrhal (88665) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929884)

We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid - Ben Franklin

99 bottles of beer on the wall ... (1)

porky_pig_jr (129948) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931544)

hey, it should at least improve you arithmetic skills, shouldn't it?

Hmmm. I question this study. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#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 (?)

Re:Hmmm. I question this study. (4, Insightful)

MBCook (132727) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929644)

What really caught me was they said that doing the training sped up your ability to do things you trained on (duh). NPR gave the example of a baggage scanner where the number of bags going in and out changes, you you have to keep track of the number of bags in the machine at any given moment.

So that may not be useful to your everyday life, and games that are similar aren't supposed to benefit. But what about the games you do in real life? As I remember, the first two Brain Training games Nintendo put out had many real world things like simple math problems (6 + 3, 7 * 5), reading analog clocks, and making change. These are all things people do in real life. Maybe doing tons of elementary math problems won't make you smarter, but it will make you faster and more confident when you have to do simple math, and that's a plus.

Count the number of spinning yellow number 7s in this jumble may not be that applicable to real life, but some are.

Nintendo never advertised the games would make you smarter. They framed it as "keeping your brain fit", like you keep your muscles fit by using them. There have been tons of copy-cats since Brain Training sold so well, and it wouldn't surprise me they claimed (or hinted) they would make you smarter. But doing simple math problems can't make you smarter, only better at simple math problems.

Re:Hmmm. I question this study. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31930080)

Doing simple arithmetic will keep your brain fit as much as lifting your spoon at breakfast will keep you physically fit.

Re:Hmmm. I question this study. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31930898)

Protect da Wii, son!

Re:Hmmm. I question this study. (1)

Jurily (900488) | more than 3 years ago | (#31932126)

But doing simple math problems can't make you smarter, only better at simple math problems.

Given the current standards of education, doing simple math will soon count as smart.

Re:Hmmm. I question this study. (2, Interesting)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929694)

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]

Re:Hmmm. I question this study. (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930410)

That's cool.

One bother though... if you try the NATO Phonetic mode, the speaker has a very heavy Asian accent.

Re:Hmmm. I question this study. (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930076)

What I find interesting is that you're questioning this study's negative assertion, when you should be challenging those who make positive assertions about the value of these games to show you a study confirming as much.

"Well you've shown that the game doesn't do X, but I feel that it might provide some other benefit" doesn't mean anything unless it's backed up with a study that shows that the game provides that other benefit.

Re:Hmmm. I question this study. (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930300)

"Well you've shown that the game doesn't do X, but I feel that it might provide some other benefit" doesn't mean anything unless it's backed up with a study that shows that the game provides that other benefit.

Which is why in the second half of their post, which you appear to not have reached before making your interesting post, they provided links. :)

Re:Hmmm. I question this study. (1)

mea37 (1201159) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931216)

Actually, I did get to the links before making my interesting point. And indeed your comment suggests that while you "got to them" in the sense of seeing they were there, you didn't click on them.

From the first link:

"The study finds that older people who regularly read, play cards and solve crossword puzzles can cut their risk of developing dementia by more than 60 percent."

A study about reading, cards, and crosswords doesn't tell us anything about these games.

The second link is about the effect of physical exercise on congitive decline.

Re:Hmmm. I question this study. (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#31932182)

A study about reading, cards, and crosswords doesn't tell us anything about these games.

Sure it does.

The second link is about the effect of physical exercise on congitive decline.

Keep reading. ;)

These studies will only come out scattershot... (1)

skids (119237) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931096)

...until someone forms something like an "ESRB for learning games" and bothers to employ some cognitive scientists full time to assess these claims.

Or we could just let which company has the best marketing team decide which products we use for this sort of thing... that'll get good results. Not.

Re:Hmmm. I question this study. (1)

drewhk (1744562) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930464)

For gods sake... A six weeks experiment? This is bullshit!

Re:Hmmm. I question this study. (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931808)

    It may be bullshit, and I agree the test wasn't long enough to come to a valid conclusion, a few things are true.

    1) Profit. Sorry, I know that's not the typical Slashdot order, but someone got paid to do the study.

    2) The obvious conclusion was given. Playing games, no matter how educational, don't make you smarter. At most, they will further your education.

    3) Anyone can do a study and get publicity from the BBC and Slashdot. :)

    I do believe that they already knew (or hypothesized) the conclusion, and applied it to their improperly scaled experiment.

    I use the same technique to prove that I'm immortal. On the day I was born, I didn't die. Every day after that, I failed to die. In over 13,000 days, I haven't died. There's been a 0:13000 chance that I'll end up dead. Therefore it can be determined that I won't ever die. The same applies to me being abducted by aliens, warping time and space with my mind, and finding a hole in the ground that leads to a hidden civilization in middle earth. :)

   

Re:Hmmm. I question this study. (1)

noidentity (188756) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930572)

Did that research find that such activities reduce cognitive decline, or that people who engage in such activities tend to have less cognitive decline? The latter doesn't tell use whether it's the activities that reduce decline, or something else which is both the cause of less decline and people doing activities. I hate it when studies that find correlations between X and Y are reported as finding that X causes Y (or Y causes X, depending on who is making up these causation relations).

Re:Hmmm. I question this study. (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931316)

"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]"

But I would say that the study shows that the "brain training" games do not create much mental activity.
I played one once, it was basically just a bunch of stupid mini games.

I would bet most normal games would induce more brain activity then "brain trainers".

Brain training games = gimmick (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31929052)

Of course Brain training, Wii Fit etc. don't work. They're the video game equivalent of ab trainers - designed to appeal to lazy stupid people who think they can acquire a genius mind or a godlike physique by buying Nintendo's latest gimmick.

Re:Brain training games = gimmick (1)

moose_hp (179683) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931006)

I already lost 21kg (46lb) on Wii Fit (started 2 months ago, about 3 hours daily) _and_ stopping eating between meals, while I know that 1 anecdote is not enough for a scientific study I wouldn't discard it so fast.

Re:Brain training games = gimmick (1)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931906)

    But... you had two changes in behavior. One was beginning to play the WII. The other was reducing your calorie intake. Were there other changes too, such as eating a good diet, rather than junk food?

    I lost 20 pounds in a month, but it was a focused effort. The first was hard exercise more than one hour a day, 5 days a week. The second was a change in my diet, eliminating unnecessary calorie intake (no sugar/caffeine drinks), and eating up to 300 calories twice a day. And the third was increasing my movement time by regular walks away from my desk at work. Reducing my calorie intake from 3000 calories to 600 calories was a big factor in the loss, but the other one was that I burnt off more when working out.

NO! (1)

RealRav (607677) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929056)

Please don't say I can no longer justify my Sudoku addiction!

Re:NO! (1)

lorg (578246) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929560)

While it probably doesn't do you any harm it will probably not improve your IQ if that is the goal.

With that in mind, a large component of so called "iq tests" tend to be completing series, sequences or filling in blanks which this could quite possibly be training for. Possibly exception is that you are somewhat training or learning a specific method of solving problem thereby locking yourself into a specific mindset which might not apply itself very well to solving other type of problems.

Ashes to ashes, mush to mush (3, Funny)

tomcode (261182) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929070)

You can't stop your brain from slowly turning to mush. You may as well enjoy the ride.

But you can delay it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31929164)

You can enjoy your capacities for focus and abstract thought well into old age if you make regular use of your brain.

You don't need any fancy computer program to do it though. Just make it a habit to engage whatever cognitive functions you most want to retain, and you will retain them much longer than any of your peers who do not make a similar effort.

Re:But you can delay it (1)

eln (21727) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929642)

Just make it a habit to engage whatever cognitive functions you most want to retain, and you will retain them much longer than any of your peers who do not make a similar effort.

Well then, I should retain my cognitive ability to quickly search out, view, and later remove all traces of Internet porn until I'm 250 years old.

Re:But you can delay it (2, Insightful)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930532)

Just make it a habit to engage whatever cognitive functions you most want to retain

I remember reading a study about how playing music helps you retain much cognitive function.

If you play piano, say, you are using memorization, hand-eye coordination, hand-ear coordination, sense of rhythm and interval perception. If you play jazz or some other improvised music, you also have to think ahead, count time, and maybe most important, use the higher creative functions. Your doing all that while sending tons of neuro-muscular information to your feet, hands and fingers. On brain-scans, music seems to light up more areas of the brain than other activities.

Plus, chicks dig musicians, which will of course keep you young in parts of your body besides the brain.

Re:Ashes to ashes, mush to mush (5, Interesting)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:Ashes to ashes, mush to mush (3, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930106)

Learning a new language is a good one. it forces you to generate new cells. Learning a middle eastern language when you are a westerner will really speed it up as it is so radically different.

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

Basically, find a subject and start studying.

Re:Ashes to ashes, mush to mush (2, Interesting)

PopeRatzo (965947) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930748)

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.

Re:Ashes to ashes, mush to mush (5, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930356)

On average, PhD.s have much healthier brains than most people, even in their 90s or older.

Well, that settles it. I'm off to buy my PhD from the University of Phoenix. I can't wait until I can hang my diploma on the wall and bask in it's brain-preserving rays. ;)

And now for an irreverent follow-up (3, Interesting)

Xaedalus (1192463) | more than 3 years ago | (#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.

Re:And now for an irreverent follow-up (1)

b4dc0d3r (1268512) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931714)

I'm surprised a the number of generalizations based on school - I went to a reputable school and met both good and bad professors. I've seen other schools, and they have their share. Some of the better schools have some terrible teachers, because they (schools and professors) are more interested in research results than teachers. Usually these become grad-asst. classes, but sometimes the bad teacher has to actually teach.

I firmly believe your diploma should list the professors for your primary classes - not just the figureheads. I learned from these people, with the school's name a footnote at the bottom.

Re:And now for an irreverent follow-up (2, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 3 years ago | (#31932240)

If you were going to be flamed for anything, it should be for thinking I was trolling UoP graduates and replying with a lengthy rant that amounts to "Yes they're a for-pay diploma mill, but I managed to receive an education there in spite of this fact."

Which is awesome for you, but what I want to know is can I still get my PhD without the education? I just want the piece of paper to stave off alzheimers. :)

Re:Ashes to ashes, mush to mush (3, Insightful)

JoshuaZ (1134087) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930888)

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.

There's a correlation v. causation issue there. It isn't clear that the PhD.s have healthier brains because they are using them more or if they have healthier brains in a way that also allows them to get PhD.s

Re:Ashes to ashes, mush to mush (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31931684)

One has to wonder whether people are more capable of achieving PhD's because they have healthier brains or if learning is what keeps the brain healthy. Also, what types of retirees are taking these courses? People who already care about neural health, who may be eating properly, who already are intelligent/have a good, properly working brain.

Re:Ashes to ashes, mush to mush (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929662)

Sure you can, you just gotta deprive it of oxygen.

Wait - did you mean remaining alive while stopping the process?

Are you sure? (2, Funny)

iCantSpell (1162581) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929116)

I have been using brain training games for about 10 years now, and now I'm able to type 15wpm.

Re:Are you sure? (2, Funny)

chronosan (1109639) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929326)

Wow, I want to learn telekinesis too. Where can I get those games?

Compensation? (1)

Andy Smith (55346) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929168)

Are these games advertised as having some benefit to your intelligence / memory / cognition / etc? Or is there some disclaimer somewhere saying that they might actually do nothing of the sort?

Just wondering if consumers might have a right to claim their money back if the products have been falsely advertised.

Re:Compensation? (1)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929454)

I'm guessing it's the latter. They probably fall into the category of dietary supplements. They are not proven to be effective, but that doesn't mean they can't hint (strongly) at some benefit. X-Ray glasses are just a toy, and an e-meter is just a religious artifact.

Re:Compensation? (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929782)

Supplements? While I doubt that they do much for my abstract reasoning ability directly, I find huperzine, vinpocetine and phosphatidylserine to be effective enhancers of memory and attention, two components of overall intelligence. I also noticed that practicing memorization does seem to have an effect on my short-term memory, but nothing else.

Re:Compensation? (1)

Imrik (148191) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930302)

Whether they help is irrelevant, they have not been proven to help. So they are advertised in a way that suggests that they might help without saying it outright.

Re:Compensation? (1)

Ohio Calvinist (895750) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929894)

If the customer made a legitimate case that they only purchased the game for the health benefit they may be able to claim that there is implied warranty for a particular purpose, and at that they'd probably only get their money back minus the intrinsic value of playing the game for pure entertainment if the case went in their favor, which is unlikely. However, to prove such a claim would be incredibly difficult and would hinge on what claims the manufacturer made and if it could be clearly claimed to not have such an effect. Most likely, the customer would claim that it didn't make them "smarter" or "have better memory", but the manufacturers would likely assert that it merely provides marginal improvements in areas specifically used by the game (e.g. memorization of math factors) or skills specifically part of the game (e.g. learning to identify the patterns of the game, counting items, etc.) and that it makes no warranty based that that skill will transfer to other areas of thought or mental capacity. In the case of "Brain Age" Nintendo does not make any medical claims and only asserts that the game is "an entertainment product "inspired" by Kawashima's [a neuroscientist] work." (http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19726381.500-is-it-worth-going-to-the-mind-gym.html?page=2)

Wait, what? (2, Interesting)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929170)

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?

Re:Wait, what? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31929752)

to improve their IQ from 3 - 7 inches...

Re:Wait, what? (1)

fusiongyro (55524) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929882)

If I had to guess, the effects are that they get better at playing these kinds of games.

Re:Wait, what? (1)

dtml-try MyNick (453562) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930906)

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

No, the first question is who buys these kind of games.
My guess is that it's the same kind of people that buy stuff via tell-sell or something similar on tv. "That vacuumcleaner is going to change my whole life, there never has been a device that will benefit me as much as this one.. MUST HAVE!"

Seriously, if you think you need game to train your brain I kinda doubt there is something that can be trained in the first place.

Brain Workshop (1)

Mr. Jax (686488) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929186)

Brain Workshop [sourceforge.net] is a Dual N-Back game which may actually improve your brain.

Re:Brain Workshop (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930102)

The study would suggest otherwise. It will no doubt improve your facility at the specific tasks practiced in the game, but it's unlike to translate into any general improvement at anything.

How useless... (The article, that is) (5, Insightful)

garg0yle (208225) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929194)

The article says, in essence, that the study found that using Brain Academy type software for six weeks did not improve cognitive function. However, nowhere does the study prove, as the article alleges, that use of such software could not slow the rate of cognitive decay. These are two entirely different things - the second one would require a long-term study tracking both users and non-users over, say, 20 or 30 years.

Re:How useless... (The article, that is) (2, Insightful)

DeadDecoy (877617) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929460)

Well, short term studies tend to be more tractable in academia due to limited funding. But I don't really find the results all that surprising. The brain games don't really challenge deeper cognitive functions but try to simply train your physical memory to react better to rudimentary problems. Jotting down 6 x 7 really fast isn't likely to expand your mind. If you really wanted to sharpen your brain, you'd study something like physics, philosophy, or music in greater depth. Those and other subjects use rudimentary skills in a broader sense to build more complex models, which improve your understanding of the world.

Re:How useless... (The article, that is) (1)

prograde (1425683) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931390)

The Nintendo DS was released in 2004. You want a 20 or 30 year study?!?

Want to exercise your brain (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31929214)

Exercise.

Anything that increases profusion of blood to your brain is a good thing. The brain is just another organ that will respond favorably to being fit. And the repetitive aerobic activities like running and biking lead to a meditative state that can help your reasoning at a high level as well.

I think the brain games can help memory and response time, but only after you get your exercise.

Re:Want to exercise your brain (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930168)

I think the brain games can help memory and response time, but only after you get your exercise.

This is precisely the claim that the study refutes. The brain games will improve your ability at that game, but it won't translate into a general improvement in memory or response time, it will only improve your memory and response time for that particular game.

Memorization vs. Understanding (1)

zero_out (1705074) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929230)

I've always found that the "brain training" games are like memorizing multiplication tables, whereas true learning is like understanding that multiplication is a form of addition. Once I know how to learn, I can figure out whatever I need to. Once I learned that multiplication is a form of addition, I could multiply just about any number without having to memorize tables. I'd rather have understanding, which is slower but more robust and flexible, than memorization, which is faster but limited to the details that are memorized.

Re:Memorization vs. Understanding (1)

MBCook (132727) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929722)

The game isn't supposed to teach you math, it's supposed to help you keep simple skills up. Memorized multiplication tables won't tell you how to solve 17 x 193, because your table didn't cover that. You still have to know how to solve it through addition.

But someone who has memorized the table and knows 7 x 9 = 63 off the top of their head will be able to carry out the problem faster that someone who doesn't know their tables as well, and has to think that 7 * 9 = 5 * 9 + 9 + 9 = 45 + 9 + 9 = 54 + 9 = 63.

Re:Memorization vs. Understanding (2, Interesting)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929858)

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.

Re:Memorization vs. Understanding (1)

osu-neko (2604) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930264)

Indeed. Humans are more likely to follow ritual for the sake of it being "what you're supposed to do". Once the children learn that's how you open a box, they open boxes that way whether they need to or not, simply because that's how you're supposed to be do it. We do all kinds of things every day that we could avoid, but we wouldn't be doing it the way we're supposed to. Society would function much less well if people didn't follow ritual regardless of necessity, and this goes far beyond simply stopping at red lights when there's no cross-traffic. Rules are the framework of society, even if most of the time, they're really unnecessary.

Re:Memorization vs. Understanding (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31930574)

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.

Did they test with chimps of the same age, or adult chimps? I'm not sure how sold I am on that study.

Re:Memorization vs. Understanding (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931026)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pIAoJsS9Ix8 [youtube.com]

This is the first video I saw on it. It was also published in National Geographic, IIRC. Not that that really makes a study like that any more credible.

Re:Memorization vs. Understanding (1)

telomerewhythere (1493937) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931568)

This is not a link to gp's study, but it struck me when I read it.
Regarding the 'intelligence' of 9 month old chimps vs average human 9 month old. There were orphaned chimps who were raised and given love by human 'mothers' There was a control group of chimp orphans given standard care. The 'loved' chimps outperformed humans of the same age (9 months) in an IQ test.
What that means other than babies need love, IDK.
Link: http://dsc.discovery.com/news/2009/02/02/chimp-baby-smart.html [discovery.com]

i was under the assumption... (2, Interesting)

gandhi_2 (1108023) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929244)

...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.

That's awesome (1)

O-Deka-K (1520371) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929250)

From TFA: "...while you are noisily 'playing' with some worthless game where large-breasted ladies in not much clothing chop up mutant dinosaurs with giant chain saws" Where can I get this game?

Re:That's awesome (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931976)

Definitely not on the Apple App Store.

You now have my complete and undivided attention. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31929274)

FTFA:

"...while you are noisily 'playing' with some worthless game where large-breasted ladies in not much clothing chop up mutant dinosaurs with giant chain saws..."

Maybe I'm living under a rock, but what specific game are they describing here, if any? I am intrigued by its ideas and would like to subscribe to its newsletter.

well (1)

Pojut (1027544) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929302)

I agree with Will Wright...playing something like Advance Wars [gamasutra.com] is a great way to exercise the brain, especially to get it jumpstarted in the morning.

I personally prefer to play a few songs on Guitar Hero or play 20-30 minutes of Muramasa: The Demon Blade [wikipedia.org] while on my recumbent bike. My mornings are always much easier and I'm much more awake when I give myself the time to do that.

Won't turn you into a genius but probably helps (5, Insightful)

thetoadwarrior (1268702) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929358)

Anyone that thinks you'll go from a tard to a genius will be disappointed. However, practising anything improves you ability at that particular thing. Take normal video games and put a newbie in front of Contra and then stick in someone who has been playing it for years. There will be a huge difference. Some people see bigger gains than others. For instance if I continue playing Mega man games I do get better but I'll never master them. That and I don't think we should complain too much about something that helps people take interest in things like math over wasting their morning reading the Daily Mail, Sun or something equally brain damaging.

Re:Won't turn you into a genius but probably helps (1)

evilviper (135110) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929966)

Skill at Contra is extremely specialized. And is as much memorization as it is "skill".

Take someone who has been playing Contra for years, and stick them in front of Quake 3, and see how well developed their "gaming skills" really are, as opposed to their "Contra skills".

In short, playing a "brain training" game repeatedly will make you good at... playing that one single "brain training" game...

If you find that game fun, be my guest, but let's not pretend there is going to be some benfit to your intellect.

The same thing is far too common with children's toys... ridiculously expensive electronic devices pandering to parents trying to give their kids an advantage, with all studies showing playing with the empty box will have the exact same effects...

Re:Won't turn you into a genius but probably helps (1)

CrazyJim1 (809850) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930090)

In short, playing a "brain training" game repeatedly will make you good at... playing that one single "brain training" game...

I have a theory that if we turn all of human learning into a single piece of software that trains people about it, you could then give this to anyone in the world and they'll become educated with enough time behind it. Of course,"Live tutors" would be necessary. The software could be distributed for free.

Re:Won't turn you into a genius but probably helps (3, Funny)

Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930502)

Take someone who has been playing Contra for years, and stick them in front of Quake 3, and see how well developed their "gaming skills" really are, as opposed to their "Contra skills".

Yeah, up up, down down, left right, left right, B A doesn't work in Quake 3. So much for memorization.

Re:Won't turn you into a genius but probably helps (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31930800)

If you aren't familiar with Contra, memorization is how those games are played. You play the same level over and over again, each enemy and obstacle coming in at the same place at the same time. The level might have a slightly different pattern if you play it differently than someone else, because of the computer tracking you and adjusting accordingly; but there is always a "best" way to play each level, and it is a repeatable pattern. Once you memorize that series of movements and button presses you have "solved" that level.

Many games have been like this, including all the way back to Pacman. If you can memorize the different patterns of movement for the ghosts, you have solved Pacman. I think there are only 9 patterns or something like that.

Re:Won't turn you into a genius but probably helps (1)

awilden (110846) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930666)

I don't think you're comparing apples to apples there. You're saying that the specialized skills that you learn from Contra won't help you with Quake 3, which I think is mostly true, though there clearly is some benefit to prior video game experiences help you learn new video games.

I think the real question is more like "does playing a game that requires you to keep track of lots of little jobs at the same time, help you get better at keeping track of lots of little jobs at the same time", and to me the answer would seem to be yes. That sort of these guys' philosophy http://cognitiveme.com/ [cognitiveme.com] but they do it with normal flash games instead of developing brain-specific games. The other thing nice about them is that they don't make outrageous claims like "we're improving your IQ" or pretend that the best way to measure the state of your brain is to give it an age in years, or anything else that's just so "out there" that you know it's not going to hold up under any scrutiny.

Certainly there are lots of "Brain Exercise" people out there who are selling snake oil, but it's just as stupid to paint the entire industry with a broad brush on the basis of a single study of people spending 30 minutes a week playing a brain game instead of surfing. Interestingly enough, if you look at the AP version who actually interviewed a scientist not involved with the study or the industry, you get a bit more nuance: [yahoo.com] http://health.yahoo.com/news/ap/eu_med_brain_games.html [yahoo.com]

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

Mom was wrong? (1)

HockeyPuck (141947) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929394)

So TV doesn't in fact rot your brain?

Play bridge on your mobile device instead? (1)

Dr. Gamera (1548195) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929412)

We know from this ten-year-old study that playing bridge boosts your immune system [cnn.com] , so clearly some forms of mental exercise have some forms of positive effects. Perhaps a better alternative to Brain Training would be playing bridge on your mobile device.

Re:Play bridge on your mobile device instead? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31930734)

Could it be exposure to others stimulates the immune system and makes it stronger? Or that other study that showed looking at sick people creates an immune response?

Professor Layton lied to us! (1)

TheRedDuke (1734262) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929452)

Turns out he's not actually a professor at all!

No surprise really (1)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929464)

GNC and other stores have shelves and shelves of vitamins and herb extracts that don't actually improve your health. Frosted Flakes gets sold with health claims. Basically, the use of a spurious claim about improving mental acuity or health in advertising is so common that it's generally best to ignore those claims entirely, unless they're coming from your doctor.

The people who stay sharp into their old age are people who are still actively using their brains and bodies as much as possible. For instance, Justice John Paul Stevens has a ridiculously good tennis game for someone in his late 80's, as well as continuing to work on legal cases, and may become a case study for gerontologists. Now, what's causing what (behavior->health or health->behavior) is a different question.

Re:No surprise really (2)

sznupi (719324) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930182)

My (at the time) doctor once prescribed me something homeopathic. I've also heard about one quite complicated surgery (of knee?) which gives no better results than placebo. I'm sure there are more examples...

Brain Age: Calculus Edition (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31929526)

Brain Age largely consists of extremely simple arithmetic problems that people already deal with on a daily basis. What if you test people on more difficult problems? A relatively large number of people learn trigonometry and calculus compared to the number of people who require it on a daily basis, would you see an improvement among this group if you begin asking them for derivatives and antiderivatives?

Crossword puzzles (1)

stevegee58 (1179505) | more than 3 years ago | (#31929960)

Nothing like a good old-fashioned crossword puzzle to exercise the brain. Also, no pencil and eraser allowed. Pen only.

N-back (1)

OrgnlDave (1791106) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930050)

Actually, n-back HAS been proven to train your brain. It's available as a game on the iphone - "IQ booster" It's hard and fun. There's a free version online and some studies on it.

Re:N-back (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | more than 3 years ago | (#31932092)

has been proven by who? the people selling it?

Sweet Game! (4, Funny)

Noxzoul (1140823) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930298)

"some worthless game where large-breasted ladies in not much clothing chop up mutant dinosaurs with giant chain saws" I want this game.

Mental stats (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#31930434)

I like Palladium's explanation of mental abilities: Mental Infinity (MI), Mental Agility (MA), and Mental Endurance (ME).

The training games are mostly improving your MA. The games are typically to short to directly affect your ME but having to replay the same mini-games for 6 weeks in a row might give some ME benefit. The games are not complex enough to affect your MI after the first few times. The tests from the article sound to focus on MI, then MA and maybe ME. This would explain the results of no benefit besides the smug feeling.

All brain games are not equal (1)

ryanatkn (1794892) | more than 3 years ago | (#31930682)

Not all games are the same, and this study's participants were using certain popular console products. I don't think this research result surprises anyone, and it's not applicable to the brain game genre. It's been mentioned, but the N-back is backed by some research. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N-back [wikipedia.org] ) There are games for it, and they're nothing like the brain games in this study. I'm a brain game developer, and I've made some different games using the same memory principle of the N-back at http://workingmemoryworkout.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com] Consumers really have to trust their own judgement, because as far as I know there's no good consumer reports for brain games. For anyone in need of a great brain game resource, see http://www.ludism.org/mentat/BrainTrainingGames [ludism.org] .

Oh, wrong "brain training"! (1)

jvkjvk (102057) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931162)

At first, I thought this was a study of those biofeedback games. Those are pretty damn cool.

And, since you learn to vary your heartbeat patterns and galvanic skin response levels, I'd say that would be training your brain to control your body.

Anyway. Not too offtopic!

Regards.

Zombies (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931254)

Maybe this "brain training" is just a way to season your brain. It will make you a target during the zombie invasion, instead of the less tasty authors of these games.

You don't need to be faster than a man eating tiger, you just need to be faster than the next guy.

Some games may help (1)

Pallando-zi (630704) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931322)

Jaeggi, Susanne M.;Buschkuehl, Martin; Jonides, John and Perrig, Walter J. [2008] "Improving fluid intelligence with training on working memory" PNAS http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2008/04/25/0801268105.abstract [pnas.org]

Abstract

Fluid intelligence (Gf) refers to the ability to reason and to solve new problems independently of previously acquired knowledge. Gf is critical for a wide variety of cognitive tasks, and it is considered one of the most important factors in learning. Moreover, Gf is closely related to professional and educational success, especially in complex and demanding environments. Although performance on tests of Gf can be improved through direct practice on the tests themselves, there is no evidence that training on any other regimen yields increased Gf in adults. Furthermore, there is a long history of research into cognitive training showing that, although performance on trained tasks can increase dramatically, transfer of this learning to other tasks remains poor. Here, we present evidence for transfer from training on a demanding working memory task to measures of Gf. This transfer results even though the trained task is entirely different from the intelligence test itself. Furthermore, we demonstrate that the extent of gain in intelligence critically depends on the amount of training: the more training, the more improvement in Gf. That is, the training effect is dosage-dependent. Thus, in contrast to many previous studies, we conclude that it is possible to improve Gf without practicing the testing tasks themselves, opening a wide range of applications.

A card version of the memory task used in their research is available at: http://www.toothycat.net/wiki/wiki.pl?DouglasReay/SnapBackGameRules [toothycat.net]

Not surprising. (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931402)

I have Brain Age and I always felt like Sudoku was more stimulating than the core game. Although the math game, where I had to do basic computations as quickly as possible did have practical applications. I found myself doing basic math more quickly and relying on the calculator less.

But otherwise, it was relatively easy to peak at the games and sustain that level if I was playing on a regular basis. It's really no different than playing any other game except that Brain Age offered even less room for improvement. The overall package was rather obnoxious, with that professor getting in the way of me just getting to what I wanted to do. And the algorithm for gauging progress seemed rather simplistic.

Not much of a study (1)

SoftwareArtist (1472499) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931422)

Ten minutes a day, three times a day, for six weeks? So basically they're saying that three hours of playing the game, spread out over a month and a half, wasn't enough to produce a measurable improvement in overall brain function? I'm shocked I tell you, shocked!

I'm not saying these games really do work, but I'd hardly call this sufficient evidence to conclude they don't work either.

Study is "misguided" (2)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 3 years ago | (#31931556)

The test group should not have been playing on the internet, they should have been vegitating in front of reality-tv. Those brain training games are not about stimulating an active mind but a stagnant one. It is for people who do nothing else that requires any thinking at all. Like slashdot editors...

It is the same as taking the stairs, that is not going to make an olympic gymnast any fitter, but for a cubible dweller, it can make a difference when it is the only excersise in the day.

Almost any gamer will not need these games, they are already playing. Brain games are for people who don't do anything else with their brain.

Tomorrow: Nintendogs not good for people with a real dog.

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