Does Brain Training Actually Work?

Training your brain with games may seem like a viable way to combat memory loss and diseases as we age. However, brain training apps may not be all they're cut out to be. Learn about how "brain games" really work and other viable options for strengthening brain health.
Does Brain Training Really Work?

Brain training apps and games seem like a dream come true for those who worry about memory loss. Who wouldn’t want to play fun games in order to increase their mental strength? 

Plus, brain training seems to make intuitive sense to us. After all, we play sports to increase our physical strength. Why wouldn’t we be able to do the same thing with our mental muscles?

However, some people are skeptical about training your brain with apps. Part of this skepticism comes from the fact that many of the games cost money. Are these apps really going to help mental strength, or are their claims simply a marketing ploy in order to increase profit margins? 

There is conflicting information about brain training.

woman playing brain games on her phone

As brain training programs increase in popularity, many scientists are trying to study the validity of these methods. However, it seems like there are a lot of conflicting results coming out—along with a variety of different methods being employed to determine the value of brain games. 

Scientists have been unable to come to a conclusion. The jury is still out on these brain games.

Brain game skeptics point out that the kind of skills you learn during brain training might not actually be applicable to everyday life. 

One group investigated the conflicting findings between numerous brain-training studies. They concluded that while brain training improves your ability to perform the tasks required during training, there is not evidence that this improvement translates into a higher cognitive ability on everyday tasks.

For example, if your brain training program asked you to remember the placement of different images and create matches, you would get better at that specific game over time. However, this would not necessarily make it more likely that you would be able to remember appointments or even your own telephone number. The improvements in memory would only be related to the highly specific game.

Learning a new skill might be more helpful.

How to Train Your Brain

Playing sudoku or crossword puzzles might be fun. However, learning a skill that you can use every day is probably a better bet.

When searching for a way to prevent mental aging, it’s best to check out the research surrounding Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s is the most common type of dementia, which involves mild memory loss that can escalate into severe memory loss. 

The science surrounding language learning and its impact on dementia is extremely promising and fairly strong. A collection of studies has indicated that people who are fluent in more than one language can experience a 5-year delay in the onset of dementia. 

Instead of spending money on a brain training app, you might be better off downloading a language learning application like Duolingo. Unlike brain training programs, language learning programs help you learn a real-life skill. Even if you are not able to travel to countries that speak your target language, you can still read books, watch movies and engage in online conversations with those who speak the foreign language. 

Physical training might help more.

woman kayaking; exercise; working out

It makes sense to think your brain requires the type of “exercises” you would typically find in brain training programs. However, science indicates that you might actually be better off doing a physical workout if you want to improve your mental functioning. 

Regular physical activity has been linked to improved memory and mental functioning. The Department of Health recommends doing 150 minutes a week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity to stay in tip-top shape. The scientific link between physical training and mental well-being is much stronger than the link between brain training and mental well-being. 

Become a social butterfly.

Increasing your social calendar can do wonders for keeping your mind healthy. Socializing helps preserve mental functioning and memory

Depression has been linked to dementia, which is one reason why scientists think socializing is so important. Maintaining a strong social group can keep an aging brain engaged and prevent depression.

Brain games are okay for fun!

Brain training might not have all of the positive effects that the creators of these programs would lead you to believe, but that doesn’t mean you have to abandon them entirely. 

If you have fun with brain games, it is entirely okay to keep playing as a part of your everyday routine. Perhaps just consider integrating some other habits that have stronger evidence for promoting brain health. 

Read More:

Surprising Ways You Can Help Prevent Dementia

Best Advice to Prevent Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease

Is Cognitive Decline Linked to Ultra-Processed Foods?


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