Do Brain Fitness games really work?

A recent paper on Nature by Owen A, e tal titled- “Putting Brain Training to the test” actually says that Brain Fitness with computer games seem not to work. The article says that brain training can improve the respective cognitive ability but it will not generalize. I do not see any problem with this last statement.Cognitive abilities are domain specific and they have to be trained that way.”If we see a generalized increase in cognitive performance, which means that the game might not be stimulating only the cognitive domain in question but other domains as well. Each cognitive ability has its own brain circuit and the enhancement should be done only on that circuit.” This might not be so clear-cut but it is a general statement. The other statement the paper makes is that “because the improvement cannot be generalized the games do not work.” I see this statement to be false. First is the explanation I just mentioned. Second, if we are testing the cognitive ability with a different entity than the game itself, this means that the subject has an improvement on that cognitive ability tested and not just on playing that specific game. Also, how do we know we are using the right game? because a game does not work it doesn’t mean that other games will not work or that cognition is not trainable, as Dr. Torkel Klingberg mentioned in a recent publication.

Adolfo Cotter, MD

May 18/2010

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