For a long time, people have believed that playing puzzle games, such as puzzles and memory activities, can help avoid the negative effects of aging. But is the old “use it or lose it” adage really true? Do these cognitive games really have any effect on mental function?
Such training may help people maintain or even improve certain aspects of cognition. Due to the large population of the elderly, this improvement may have a significant impact on the mental health and function of the elderly.
What is cognitive training?
Also known as brain training, cognitive training is a non-pharmacological method that involves following a series of routine mental activities designed to help maintain or even improve a person’s cognitive (thinking) ability.
Some of the mental abilities that cognitive training often targets include:
- Cognitive flexibility
- Solve the problem
- Working memory
In addition to this specific brain training, there are more general forms of mental training that can help maintain or improve mental health and cognitive function. This more general mental training focuses on keeping the brain “healthy”, just as exercise can improve and maintain physical health.
General types of mental training can take many forms, including physical exercise, playing video games, maintaining social participation, and participating in creative pursuits.of
The focus of these activities is to help people become better in learning, problem solving and reasoning. Some of these brain training activities focus on doing things, such as helping people remember more or improving their ability to concentrate.
This ability has obvious uses in daily life. Being able to concentrate can help you focus on class lectures or complete tasks without being distracted. Being able to remember more may help you effectively learn new things or recall the names of new friends you meet.
Research has also found that these abilities are closely related to factors such as intelligence, academic performance, and overall success in life.Given the importance of these skills, it may not be surprising that researchers have long been interested in understanding whether these capabilities are malleable.
There are many reasons why people might want to try cognitive training.These include:
- Slow down the cognitive decline associated with aging
- Help older people stay more independent
- Improve mental skills needed for daily life
Mental abilities that tend to decline with age include processing speed, reaction time, decision-making, short-term memory, and planning skills. Brain training may help improve these abilities, and may help reduce the risk of some age-related memory problems.
For example, a 2016 study found that training focused on improving processing speed reduced the risk of dementia after ten years.of
There is also hope that certain types of brain training may help resolve certain types of injuries or problems. For example, in 2020, the FDA approved a brain training game designed to help treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
The treatment is carried out through video games, which have been shown in multiple clinical trials to increase the concentration of children with ADHD. After a month of treatment, these effects have also translated into meaningful improvements in daily functions.Such results indicate that brain training may have potential.
For decades, researchers have been studying the effects of brain training. However, surprisingly, there is still little consensus on the effectiveness of cognitive training.of
Although there are studies that support the idea that specific brain training can improve specific cognitive skills, there are other studies that have reached different conclusions.
Despite the lack of consensus in the research, based on the idea that playing these brain games can improve your intelligence, an entire industry of applications, games, and other tools emerged.
Will the skills be transferred to the real world?
Although there is some support for brain training, researchers also question whether the skills acquired in these training exercises will be transferred to real-world activities.In other words, does playing memory training games really mean you will remember what you need in the grocery store?
There are some studies that support the use of brain training and its transferability to daily life and function. In a large-scale study, it was found that mental training can improve the cognitive function of the elderly, resulting in lasting real-world improvements, such as recalling when to take medicine.
The potential for this lasting benefit can help older people maintain their intelligence and independence as they age.
It’s not just the aging brain that can benefit from cognitive training. Research also shows that brain training games can also help improve young people’s executive functions, such as working memory and processing speed.
Why the results may be different
So, the question is why some studies support the positive effects of cognitive training, while other studies do not find such effects? There may be several factors at play.
- Not all types of brain training are created equal: the broad nature of “cognitive training” itself means that different studies may not focus on the same thing. The types of brain training used in the research may have different effects in the laboratory environment and how (and whether) these skills are later transferred to the real world.
- It may be more helpful than others: it is also important to note that most studies do not take into account individual differences. Memory training may be useful for people with specific memory deficits, but people with normal abilities may be less noticeable.
- Its effectiveness may be limited: A research review suggests that while brain training may be beneficial, it may be most effective for tasks that are very similar to training activities. It seems that this kind of training may be more beneficial when performed for a long time.
Should you try brain training?
If you are interested in using brain training, you can do a few different things. Cognitive training exercises usually involve pattern detection, the use of touch screen programs to improve thinking speed and memorizing lists. Such activities can usually be found online or using mobile apps.
However, before trying these websites, games or apps, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Many brain training companies exaggerate the benefits of their products.
- Researchers have not yet discovered what factors make brain training interventions effective.
- Research has not yet determined which type of training or combination of training is needed to be effective for different conditions or problems.
- The types of apps and games available to consumers are usually not scientifically tested to prove their effectiveness or effectiveness.
Some of these brain training companies were actually fined by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for making misleading claims about the benefits of their games.of
A 2016 study compared the effects of Lumosity, a brain training tool, with conventional video games. It turned out that both groups showed improved cognitive abilities—but so did the other participants who didn’t play any games at all.of
How to improve brain health
The reality is that brain training may or may not be effective, but engaging in mental stimulation activities is always a good thing. Finding ways to challenge your brain may help you feel sharper now and protect your brain as you age.
If you are interested in trying some more general mental training designed to improve overall brain health, you may need to focus on mental exercises yourself. Some brain enhancement activities that may help include:
- Do math in your head
- Draw a map from memory
- Learn a new language
- Learn how to play an instrument
- Remember the list and test your memories
- Play Sudoku
- Jigsaw puzzle
In addition to this cognitive training, there are other things you can do to help take care of your brain. Activities that can improve brain health include regular exercise, social activity, and meditation.
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Cognitive training may have many potential benefits, but it is also important to understand its limitations. It may improve your skills and help you retain more information, but you should not expect miraculous improvements.
These skills may or may not be translated into the real world. If nothing else, these brain games can be a fun and challenging way to test your cognitive skills.
Instead of focusing on training specific mental abilities (such as working memory), focus on things that promote long-term brain health and health. These include maintaining physical activity, controlling stress, getting enough sleep, and maintaining social connections.