Er bestaan heel wat boeken, dvd's en computergames met hersenspelletjes waardoor je slimmer zou worden. Uit een grootschalig onderzoek op vraag van de BBC blijkt ook dat slechts een mythe. Brain games leren je niet beter redeneren, plannen of een supergeheugen ontwikkelen. Je wordt wel beter in het uitvoeren van die specifieke spelletjes.
Millions of people worldwide do some form of computer-based brain training every day. Many believe that by regularly ‘exercising’ the brain with special tests and puzzles, ‘brain skills’ can be improved and we can become better at everyday thinking tasks.
Brain Test Britain asked the question: do brain training games actually work?
It was launched in September 2009 on the BBC One programme Bang Goes the Theory. Of the 67,000 people who signed up to take part in Brain Test Britain, more than 13,000 completed the initial six-week brain training period, making this by far the largest ever study of computer-based brain training of its time.
The experiment was designed by Professor Clive Ballard at Kings College London and Dr Adrian Owen at the University of Cambridge.
Brain Test Britain investigated how effectively different kinds of brain training games increase IQ:
Reasoning brain training games – mostly involve planning, problem-solving and analysis; players can’t just try harder if they want to improve, they need to develop mental strategies.
Non-reasoning brain training games – mostly involve short-term memory, attention to detail, maths and interpreting visual information. They are similar to tasks commonly found in commercially available brain training.
At the beginning of the experiment, participants took a set of benchmarking tests to assess specific brain skills. Participants were then assigned one of the two types of brain training games, or to a general knowledge quiz (using the internet to find the answers) for six weeks, before being tested on the benchmarking tests again.
This groundbreaking scientific study found no evidence that playing brain training games can meaningfully boost your 'brain power' in the general population. The results were published in the journal Nature.
The analysis found that people who play brain training games do get better at those specific games – proving the old adage of ‘practice makes perfect’. But there was no evidence that this transfers to the brain skills measured by our benchmarking tests in the population as a whole.
Further studies that looked at individuals within Brain Test Britain’s population did reveal some intriguing results.
Adults over the age of 50 showed improvements in the benchmarking tests after six months of brain training games. They improved in verbal learning and reasoning skills. Those over 60 also became better at daily life tasks like handling finances or remembering to take medication (called ‘instrumental activities of daily living’). These effects were seen with both reasoning and non-reasoning brain training games.
These results suggest that brain training games can be effective at improving brain skills in older people specifically.