Intelligence is classically thought of as an immutable characteristic of each individual, pre-determined by genetics and permanent for a person’s entire life. There are now apps and other computer programs that claim to improve brain function with excessive use. Gazzaley’s study initially seems straightforward, but can we accept a conclusion with such profound implications that easily?
Simons also notes issues with small sample size and the failure to account for a subject’s predisposition to video gaming, among other critiques. Send me email updates about messages I've received on the site and the latest news from The CafeMom Team.
Exhale through your mouth in short little puffs, as if you are keeping a feather in the air, until your lungs feel empty.
Grasp your left ankle with your right hand and the ball of your right foot with your right hand. Do three full 8s with one hand, then three with the other and finally three with both hands clasped together.
Sit on a padded surface (use a mat or towels) on the floor with your knees bent and your feet together in front of you. Place your other hand, pointing downward, on your lower back, with your fingertips touching the tailbone. Also notice the X-like symmetry and organisation within your own body, as each hip co-ordinates with each shoulder. Our minds are like our other muscles and need to be stretched regularly to maintain their fitness and to help keep us sharp.
We now know that our brains continue to grow new cells throughout our lifetimes, even in our older years. Alternate routine exercises such as crossword puzzles, Sudoku, jigsaw puzzles so your brain doesn’t get lazy!
Incorporate a word of the day into your life, use it in a sentence and share it with others. Just as it is important to exercise our bodies and feed it well with nutritious foods, it is important to exercise and keep our brains fit. One of the bigger names in this field, Lumosity, runs advertisements that their brain-training program is backed by research and is “based on neuroscience.” The purpose here is not to discredit such apps like Lumosity and Brain Fit, but to take a closer look at the legitimacy of these claims of cognitive improvement, examine some actual research being done, and encourage a critical approach to a topic that popular culture REALLY wants to be true. One last issue that I think is worth mentioning is the study’s central assumption that multitasking ability decreases with age.

Gazzaley’s findings are certainly captivating and have large implications that the media continues to pay close attention to. Activities that increase blood flow to the brain, such as physical activity, mental stimulation and good nutrition will help exercise our brains which in turn enhances our brains. These cells can further enhance overall function by migrating to areas where new cells are necessary and learning from the surrounding cells what skills are required. Helping your senior loved ones add some of these activities to their day can be great gift ideas too. Exercise is not only good for the body but for the brain as well Mental exercises delay the onset of many memory related diseases! It is an appealing idea to think that somehow, one can voluntarily, and naturally, boost his or her level of cognitive performance. Adam Gazzaley, the team developed a video game targeted at training multitasking ability and cognitive control. In a review of Gazzaley’s paper on his blog, Simons raises 19 questions he has that are critical of conclusions drawn by this video game study. They came to this conclusion by testing subjects across all different ages on a diagnostic version of NeuroRacer. This study is only a recent piece of a much more extensive literature on brain fitness and transfer effects. This is especially true when there has been an injury such as stroke or other brain injury for renewal of lost skills.
The game, called NeuroRacer, was used to compare performance levels of older adults between ages 60 and 80 to 20 year olds.
Out of these 19 critiques, one that I find concerning is that the study fails to prove that the older subjects improved their general multitasking ability compared to that of a 20 year old.
The problem is that a 70 year old and a 20 year old have lived in different times and grown up in different environments. Other researchers have focused on working memory training and its effects on memory, attention, and cognitive control. We can also improve our overall cognition and brain fitness by helping our brain cells that are now inactive become active. Parts of the hippocampus, a subcortical brain structure implicated in tasks of memory and other cognitive control functions, as well as the olfactory bulb (smell center) have been shown to generate new neurons after initial neurogenesis in the mammalian brain. Under the general assumption that multitasking ability declines with age, the group found that training with NeuroRacer resulted in the older adults becoming more proficient at the game than untrained adults in their 20s.

Yes, the study finds that older subjects improved markedly on performance in the multitasking video game compared to younger subjects, but in terms of transfer to multitasking outside the game there is no evidence. In the present day youth are exposed to much more simultaneous activity from a younger age, with all the new technology that is constantly in your face. It would be great for everyone if our intelligence turned out to be more plastic than originally thought. These findings play into the idea that there is a way to somehow become smarter, even though you aren’t necessarily born with such cognitive gifts. The more meaningful finding though, is that after training the older adults performed better at attention and memory tasks separate from the game. Studies aimed at proving real world application to these brain games must provide evidence that training transfers to activity outside the training games.
The linear relationship that is found between multitasking ability and age is not that simple. Yes, of course you get better at a game you play over and over again, but the more important question is whether or not you improve at unrelated tasks outside of training.
Even though much more challenging, it would be necessary to test one individual on multitasking performance at different times throughout life to get a better sense of this idea. They further backed their findings with electroencephalography (EEG) data examining the theta wave activity in both young and old adult brains. This critique is not devastating to the study but is something else to think about when drawing your own conclusions. The appropriate use of control groups, as well as tests showing transfer effects to real world applications are imperative to these studies. The placebo effect must also be accounted for if subjects are to actually perform better, and not just think they are.
After training with NeuroRacer the theta activity of older adults increased, resembling the level of theta activity normally seen in people in their 20s. Lumosity and other brain fitness games may have some real use, but after taking the current research into account, it is still necessary to be critical of the many cognitive training and “brain gym” products out there. These findings indicate the potential for an increase in cognitive function with the appropriate training and have implications for those affected by neurodegenerative diseases, as well as general cognitive decline with age.

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