Playing Those Computer Brain Games May Not Help Keep Your Mind Sharp After All

David Beckham. Image: Allsport UK/ALLSPORT

A group of experts has questioned the benefits of using computer-based brain games to keep the mind sharp as old age approaches.

They’re worried that commercial companies are selling computer brain games on the basis of supposed benefits which can’t be supported by research.

The statement by the who’s who of brain studies and issued jointly by Sanford University’s Center on Longevity and the Berlin Max Planck Institute for Human Development says:

To date, there is little evidence that playing brain games improves underlying broad cognitive abilities, or that it enables one to better navigate a complex realm of everyday life.

Generally people are living longer and reaching old age with higher levels of brain functioning.

Initial results of research into computer-based brain exercises are promising.

“At present, these findings do not provide a sound basis for the claims made by commercial companies selling brain games,” say the scientists.

However, they say some intriguing reports do inspire additional research.

Some studies suggest that both non-computerised reasoning and computerised speed-of-processing training are associated with improved driving in older adults and a reduction in the number of accidents.

Another study revealed that 100 days of practicing 12 different computerised cognitive tasks resulted in small general improvements in the cognitive abilities of reasoning and episodic memory, some of which were maintained over a period of two years.

In other studies, older adults have reported they felt better about everyday functioning after cognitive training, but no objective measures supported that impression.

More research is needed to replicate, clarify, consolidate and expand such results.

“In a balanced evaluation of brain games, we also need to keep in mind opportunity costs,” the scientists say.

“Time spent playing the games is time not spent reading, socialising, gardening, exercising, or engaging in many other activities that may benefit cognitive and physical health of older adults.”

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