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Unread May 27th, 2010, 03:17 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Philadelphia area
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Cool Brain Training Useless?

There is a new scam every second and there is money to be made if you can predict which will go viral. Evolutionary data and hints from Kuramoto, Strogatz, and even Barabasi could open doors.

Meanwhile, an aging population that delights in finding old Camaros at gas pumps will also buy stuff that keeps wrinkles off their face and out of their minds.

Stolen from Journal Watch for Psychiatry...

"Although various online brain-training techniques are widely advertised, there is little empirical evidence that they work. To address this issue in a randomized, controlled, three-arm study, researchers recruited viewers of a British popular science television program.

Participants were assigned specific cognitive tasks similar to those in commercial programs, general tasks of planning and reasoning, or searching the Internet for answers to a list of obscure questions (control). Participants were asked to work online on the tasks (each group had 6 tasks) for a minimum of 10 minutes per session, three times per week, during the 6-week study. Testing at baseline and at week 6 included both specific cognitive tasks addressed by the training and validated measures of general intelligence (g).

Of the 52,617 people recruited, 11,430 completed testing and engaged in a mean of 24 sessions (range, 1–188). Mean age did not differ significantly by group. Groups showed no significant differences in pre- to post-training changes in "g" or in cognitive tasks. Post-training tests revealed large effects only on the specific tasks included in the 6-week training; these scores were significantly higher in the two experimental groups than in the control group.

Also, the number of training sessions did not correlate with test outcomes.
Comment: Limitations of this ingenious design include nonconsecutive case recruitment and a large drop-out rate. These data show that training improves only the task at hand and does not generalize to other tasks. Therefore, commercially available brain-training programs appear to be of little use in real-world situations.

— Barbara Geller, MD

Owen AM et al. Putting brain training to the test. Nature 2010 Apr 20; [e-pub ahead of print]. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/nature09042)
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