02 March 2009

The Brain Games Game

Not the greatest press lately for Brain Games:

coolestgadgets Brain Training games no better than crosswords, experts say
Expensive electronic brain trainers … are no better than keeping the mind young and sharp than the daily crossword puzzle …

bbc 'Brain training' claims dismissed
… Results did not show that it was any better than standard computer games …

Brain games do/don't work: the debate continues
guardian The meta-analysis concluded "that there was no evidence indicating that structured cognitive intervention programs had an impact on the progression of dementia in the healthy elderly population."

$80 million per year 'brain exercise' industry a crock?
scienceblog"The brain aging products sold today can be a financial drain, decrease participation in more proven effective lifestyle interventions, like exercise, and potentially undermine cognitive health by frustrating the "worried well" if poorly designed."

My first exposure to the recent spate of brain games was at the 2004 Boomer Business Summit.  I scratched my not-too-bright head and wondered what the difference was between a brain game and any mind-bending game: Rubik's Cube, Scrabble, Sudoku, etc.  Obviously, this new crop of revolutionary IQ busters improved your brain power while all the others were, I guess, just for laughs. 

chess And that’s what bothered me about the marketing – and still does.  Are these new-fangled blinking lights on a screen the best way, the only way to keep your noggin nimble?  This seems to be the claim.  Or are they a new breed in a long line of cognitive games that go back to counting pebbles on a cave floor?

You certainly get the ‘hard-sell’ impression that if you don’t buy and play these games, eventually your brain will leak out of your nose and ears.  Why not just tell the truth?  These are high-tech, stimulating computer-generated exercises that will help keep your mind sharp - are structured, measurable to some degree (so they’re useful for medical research), and quite entertaining.  And there are a lot of them – so you won’t get bored just playing one over and over. 

They’re as good for you as crossword puzzles.

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