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Putting Brain Training to the Test

Essay by   •  November 20, 2011  •  Case Study  •  777 Words (4 Pages)  •  1,580 Views

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An article extracted from Nature magazine dated 10 June 2010 talks about the test that BBC show "Bang Goes The Theory" collaborated with British researchers to test on the hypothesis that commercially available computerized brain-training program transfer to the general improvement of cognitive abilities.

Introduction

Lately, commercial brain-training programs have been widely spread in the market. While publics are giving positive reactions, the scientific evidence to support its efficacy is still lacking. There are still questions if the training lead to any general cognitive function improvement. Following this, a large-scale experiment was conducted to study the hypothesis.

The experiment

The experiment was conducted online through the show's website with total participants of 52,617. However, out of the number, only 11,430 completed the whole study. The study consisted of 'benchmarking' assessments in which the participants were required to complete at the beginning and at the end of the study. The study was scheduled in 6 weeks and the participants were to practice six training tasks at least 10 minutes a day for three times a week. The participants were randomly assigned into 3 groups, two of which are the experimental group while the third one is the control group. Experimental group 1 was focused on reasoning, planning and problem-solving abilities while experimental group 2 was

tested on a broader range of cognitive functions targeted by commercial brain-training programs involving short-term memory, attention, visuospatial processing and mathematics. The control group did not undergo any formal training sessions but answered obscure knowledge questions from six different categories and to arrange them chronologically using any online resources. After six weeks, the 'benchmarking' assessments were repeated and the

results of the initial and final were compared.

The Result

The two experimental groups did show an improvement in the benchmarking tasks. However, the control group also showed improvement with similar effect sizes which were very small even when compared directly. The control group even showed better improvement on some of the tasks which left the researches to conclude that the improvement showed by all the three groups might be the effect of repeated practices. Regardless of the relationship between the number of training sessions, age or gender, in which were all negligible, this results failed to prove any generalized improvement in cognitive function.

Analysis

The results came out as a shock to most participants as it was expected that brain-training programs help to improve their cognitive functions. Therefore, following the results,

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