Ask the expert: Do brain training games work?

Lumosity, Elevate, crossword puzzles, Suduko and even video games are considered brain training games. But what impact do they really have on those who use the games?

“The claims I’ve heard are these games will keep your brain sharp, which has no medical definition,” Dana Merriman, neuroscience professor, said.

Neuroscience has been a growth area in biomedical research. It’s everything from molecules and their physical interactions with one another, molecular neuroscience, out to and including the functions of the brain, body organs and how those impact behaviors.

“The games have an impact, but the question becomes if you get better at that game, does that make you better at real life?” Merriman said.  “There is a difference between intelligence and memory.”

According to Merriman, memory and intelligence are two different things, and when you are trying to evaluate if the games impact intelligence or memory, look at what impact has been claimed.

“Other neuroscientists have examined the data and have come to a pretty strong conclusion that the games make you better at the games, but they don’t necessarily make you better at the tasks,” Merriman said. “We don’t have the long-term data that they reverse or slow dementia.”


Watch the video to learn more about the impacts of brain training games:

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  • It’s heartening to hear from a chaired neuroscience professor here in Wisconsin. We need this kind of sunlight. Dr. Merriman’s remarks confirm reading I have done, first from Charlotte Buhler’s original work in the 60’s (?) on the arc of human development (some people age well, others not, and behaviors can make that curve diverge over time); and the findings of three scholars, from Georgia Tech, Case Westerm, and the Univ. of Oslo, among others, that are the same as Dr. Merriman’s assessment: that so-called brain games produce gamer effects, not intelligence as we define it. I’d add one thing, and that is the people who are suckered in by the Pearson hype (like Koch brothers dictation to push their preferred profit centers for their own gain) are not mostly the elderly. How many elderly have that kind of money? The people suckered in are young parents, and, lamentably, schools, who pay large sums for these games believing the hype. Hype — or university neuroscientists whose work is juried in publication? Take your pick. And then, as Merrim- an recommends, take good care of your body with diet and physical exercise, because that includes your brain.