Brain training games don't train the brain, says BBC

Research in a BBC program to be aired tonight shows that brain training games such as those sold for the Nintendo DS are no better at training your brain than simply spending time browsing the Internet.

The 11,000 participants were randomly split into three groups and asked to do different brain "workouts" for 10 minutes a day and three times a week over a period of six weeks.

While two of the three groups played games aimed at specific cognitive functions of the brain, such as problem-solving abilities and visuospatial skills, the third group was given simple web browsing tasks which did not target any particular skill.

Tests done after the six weeks of training showed that none of the activities had improved the participant's brain power. Unsurprisingly they did become better at the specific games, or tasks, they had been doing over the six week period.

Neuroscientist Dr Adrian Owen said that the results were clear. "Statistically, there are no significant differences between the improvements seen in participants who played our brain training games, and those who just went on the internet for the same length of time," he said.

Clive Ballard of the Alzheimer's Society, who helped to design the games used, said that the "evidence could change the way we look at brain training games" and that taking a walk could perhaps be a better way of staying active.

According to the BBC, Nintendo said in a statement that their Dr Kawashima brain training games never claimed to be scientifically proven to improve cognitive function and that the games are just "fun challenges incorporating simple arithmetic, memorization and reading".

"In this way it is like a workout for the brain and the challenges in the game can help stimulate the player's brain," it read.

"Can You Train Your Brain?- A Bang Goes the Theory Special" airs tonight on BBC One at 9pm BST, and will be available afterwards on BBC iPlayer.

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