10:44 02 May 2008
The brain training bug has bitten the nation. From the video game of the same name to teasers in the newspapers, puzzle games are everywhere. But do they really do us any good?
Nintendo's Brain Training has sold 10 million copies worldwide so it's clear that people have bought into the idea.
Developed by Japanese neuroscientist Ryuta Kawashima and advertised by the likes of Nicole Kidman - who claims the game has reduced her 'brain age' by 15 years - the premise certainly seems sound.
The problem arises in the research behind Brain Training and the industry it has spawned, an industry that is worth 40million in the United States alone.
For while many of these games claim to make you sharper, quicker and generally more intelligent very few of these boasts carry any scientific weight.
The evidence against
Jason Braithwaite, a cognitive and neuro-psychologist at the University of Birmingham believes that this new wave of brain teasers fail to benefit your brain any more than a traditional game of chess or piecing together a puzzle.
Braithwaite believes that Nintendo's claims that their game can reduce your brain age is "ridiculous".
He states: "With these tests, you are improving your practice at very specific things [such as short-term memory or reaction times] but these don't necessarily mean it gives you a general cognitive benefit."
The evidence for
An American study, where 70 volunteers were trained and tested on, claims computer-based brain training can improve your IQ.
Out of the volunteers, those who were given this computer based training performed better than those who hadn't.
But who is correct?
Clive Ballard, director of research for the Alzheimer's society that more studies are needed before a verdict can be derived.
He said: "These games are being marketed widely, but people could be wasting time and it raises false hope.
"There is much better evidence to say that if you were going to spend 30 minutes a day doing something [to reduce the risk], you'd be better off doing physical exercise than brain training".
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