What We Learned from Training 101,000 Brains
From the Editor-in-Chief
In 4th grade, my youngest son could not spell his own name. His brain had a problem. I discovered it standing in his school hallway one evening while I read a story he had written about my husband, a military officer. At the top of the page was his full name: Evan William Moore. He spelled his middle name WIL-YUM. Under that he wrote, “My dad is in the Air Fors. Pepol saloot my Dad.” At 9 years old, he was spelling phonetically (the way words sound) like the average 6 year old.
As a child development expert and former teacher, I could not believe my child was so far behind his peers in school. When I talked to him about it, I discovered he had been feeling dumb and defeated for a very long time. It had impacted his self-esteem to the point he struggled to connect with other kids. In fact, he said to me one night as I was tucking him in to bed, “Mom, if they gave grades for making friends, I would get a D minus.” My mama’s heart broke for him.
But fast forward three years to 7th grade, and my same child who couldn’t spell his own name in 4th grade, was now enrolled in Gifted and Talented Language Arts. And as a freshman in High School, he took two college English classes and passed both courses with an A. He was now a talented musician in the city’s youth symphony and an extreme extrovert with lots of friends. How’d he make that jump?
Well, because of the amazing capacity of our brains to change with a little help, we are not stuck with the cognitive cards we’ve been dealt. And neither was Evan. After 9 months of brain training, Evan had a new and improved deck of cognitive cards.
So, what do I mean by brain training? Brain training, or cognitive training, is a general term for repeated engagement in mental tasks that target the improvement of cognitive skills like memory, attention, and visualization. There are ‘brain games’ everywhere but brain training is so much more than a game. In order to harness the brain’s ability to change through experience—a phenomenon called neuroplasticity—brain training needs to be intense, complex, targeted, repeated, and (I might argue) delivered by a human.
How do we know brain training can do that? In short, Data. Since 2015, hundreds of research studies have been published on brain training programs. My name is on a dozen of them. I’m the research director for LearningRx, the largest network of cognitive training centers in the world. Our team has worked with more than 100,000 children and adults…that’s about 6 million brain training sessions! And we’ve amassed stories just like Evan’s. Stories of overcoming struggles with thinking and learning through brain training.
In my recent TEDx talk at TEDxWestMonroe, I shared three lessons we’ve learned from our experience and research in this field. What were they?
Lesson #1. Cognition is complex, so cognitive training needs to be complex.
Lesson #2. Cognitive training is a universal intervention.
Lesson #3. Cognitive training is hard work, so you want to see real-life changes.
In this talk, I share our peer-reviewed clinical research that demonstrates the complexity, universality, and transfer effects of human-delivered brain training for ADHD, learning disabilities, traumatic brain injury, and age-related cognitive decline. Research you can read here: https://www.gibsonresearchinstitute.org/publications/
I ended my TEDx talk with a story about one of our research participants with a severe traumatic brain injury who recovered his life and career after brain training. It’s a story of hope with the message that we are not stuck with the cognitive cards we’ve been dealt!
Watch my TEDx talk and please share this idea worth spreading!
To a better brain –
Dr. Amy Moore is Editor-in-Chief of Modern Brain Journal, a cognitive psychologist, and a brain training researcher in Colorado Springs, CO at the headquarters of LearningRx, the largest network of cognitive training centers in the world. She specializes in rehabilitation of cognition and learning in neurodevelopmental disorders, brain injury, learning disabilities, and age-related cognitive decline. She is also a TEDx speaker, a board-certified Christian counselor, and co-host of the Brainy Moms podcast. Learn more about her work at www.AmyMoorePhD.com and www.LearningRx.com