Does Brain Training Really Work?

The Science-Backed Brain Training Findings 

Brain training seems to be the latest big trend taking the world by storm. However, unlike many, it seems that this trend is one that will stick around. Why? With more and more scientific research and an increased amount of reports highlighting the benefits of training your brain, it’s obvious that this trend will be hard to brush aside. 

And why wouldn’t you want to train your brain if you could reap some incredible benefits? Of course it’s only natural to be sceptical, especially when you could be investing so much time and energy into something new and pretty unknown. But fear not…

We’ve saved you a job and collated the scientific research highlighting the benefits of brain training and why and how it can potentially boost your brain for the better.    

Memory Training Research 

The team here at Peak worked with Prof. Barbara Sahakian of Cambridge University to develop our super-popular science-backed memory game, Wizard. One of the aims of the research was to identify, “cognitive enhancers in patients… (including) a non-pharmacological method of enhancing motivation and cognition.” They concluded that “cognitive enhancers such as smart drugs and devices have the potential to provide benefits in healthy people.” 

They also found that by playing Peak’s memory game Wizard, you can potentially improve your memory. 

Attention Training Research 

Sahakian and her team also helped Peak develop Decoder. The main aim was to design a game scientifically proven to improve attention. In a study published in Frontiers of Behavioural Neuroscience, Sahakian shows that users who play Decoder significantly improve their attention in standardised tests when compared to control groups. 

Processing Speed

A team of neuroscientists researched the beneficial effect brain training games are expected to transfer to other cognitive functions. They then investigated the impact brain training games had on cognitive functions in the elderly. All participants were non-gamers who reported playing less than one hour of video games per week over the past 2 years. They were asked to play their brain training games for 15 minutes per day, at least 5 days per week, for 4 weeks. Measures of the cognitive functions were conducted before and after training. “Results showed that the effects of the brain training game were transferred to executive functions and processing speed.” Potentially leading to improved cognitive functions in short term training, in this case in the elderly. They are looking to mimic the tests with even bigger sample sizes. 

Another study backing up these findings, Training-Induced Brain Structure Changes in the Elderly by Boyke et al., explored the suggestion that, “It is not clear whether and to what extent the aging brain is still able to exhibit structural plasticity.” Building on their original study with 20-year-olds, they now focused on healthy senior citizens. They observed that after learning a new challenging skill, the elderly persons were less proficient compared to the 20-year-old adolescents, however, “similar to the young group, gray-matter changes in the older brain related to skill acquisition were observed in area hMT/V5 (middle temporal area of the visual cortex). In addition, elderly volunteers… showed transient increases in gray matter in the hippocampus on the left side and in the nucleus accumbens bilaterally.” 

Decision Making Training Research 

Professor Wei Ji Ma and Sebastiaan van Opheusden of New York University “built a computational model that predicts people’s choices in a two-player board game… The model generalizes to predict choices of players” and can “capture aspects of the computational process that underlies decision-making.” Peak’s well-loved game Connect ‘Em Up challenges problem solving skills and is helping with their research.

Mood Boosting Training Research 

A current and ongoing Peak collaboration happening right now is with Dr. Oliver Robinson of University College London. Together Peak and Robinson have developed a game called Handling Emotion, that aims to help people to focus on positive stimuli. It is based on a concept called attentional bias modification, which is a computer-based therapy that can gradually change your attentional bias, boost your mood, minimise anxiety/stress and interrupt addiction. We’re seriously excited about this one as the effectiveness and potential benefits of this game could be great.

So does brain training really work? Jessika I. V. Buitenweg et al., from the Department of Psychology, University of Amsterdam and the Cognitive Science Center researched brain trainability and concluded that, “a successful brain training program should preferably include a range of different tasks to engage a multitude of functions, as well as continually offer something new in order for the neuronal system to remain challenged and to create possibilities of maximum enhancement in this population.”

What can we take from these findings? To get the most out of brain training, opt for a variety of different brain training games and always try something new. If you love Peak’s game Word Fresh and you’re getting good at it, switch it up a little and challenge yourself with other brain training games like Memory Sweep or Earth Defense. With so many Peak brain training games to choose from, you won’t struggle to find something new to push your brain further. 

One last thought? Watch this space. Brain training research is hotting up and we predict more and more findings will be unearthed in 2020 and beyond. Just be sure to do your own research when it comes to the science behind brain training and whittle out the facts from the click bait headlines.

Brought to you by Peak, makers of the Peak – Brain Training and Peak Sleep – Sleep Better apps. Start brain training and sleeping well today:


Sources Cited:

Brain training in progress: a review of trainability in healthy seniors

Maisie Bygraves

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