Does Brain Training Work?

The Big Question

Brain training is a hot topic right now. Does brain training really work? That’s a great question and one that I’m frequently asked. My answer is most always, “It depends.”  The outspoken critics of cognitive training have made it difficult to highlight the outstanding positive results that some researchers are finding. The challenge is that not all brain training programs are the same. There’s a big difference between a digital “brain game” and a therapeutic intervention delivered by a clinician.  Just like there’s a big difference between playing a video game with fighter jets and actually flying a fighter jet.  As the wife of a fighter pilot, I’ve been told that some of the tasks might seem similar…but it’s not the same thing!

“There’s a big difference between a digital ‘brain game’ and a therapeutic intervention delivered by a clinician.”

So when we read research on brain training that shows negative results, we can’t assume that all research on brain training shows negative results. That’s akin to saying that because one drug was found to be ineffective at curing strep throat that ALL drugs must then be ineffective at curing strep throat. We, of course, know that is not true! Why, then, are we so quick to generalize the findings from research on one brain training program to all other brain training programs? It’s certainly something about which I continue to shake my head. 

The idea that brain training could work is grounded in the concept of neuroplasticity—that the brain is capable of changing through experience. We know that to be true. The bigger question is, “What types of experience are required to drive neuroplasticity?” Let’s answer that and get down to the business of saving our brains!

I’ve devoted my career to researching cognitive training.  Take a look at the research my team and I are doing at Gibson Institute of Cognitive Research and read about more brain training research throughout the Modern Brain Journal site!

From my brain to yours-

Amy Lawson Moore, PhD
Educational & Cognitive Psychologist
Modern Brain Journal

Follow me on Twitter @amylawsonmoore