Brain training via the computer – does it work?

by Emily

There has been a strong trend in recent years towards 'educational' computer games which are thought to aid brain efficiency. These games, which usually take the form of puzzles such as number games and word teasers, have been endorsed by celebrities including Julie Walters, Patrick Stewart and Nicole Kidman. How effective are they as educational aids?

Brain training, in any form, is a recognised hypothesis that keeping the brain active can decrease the possibility of degenerative illness, such as dementia, later in life. However, conclusive proof of the theory's validity has not been achieved although studies have been completed which suggest a strong correlation.

The most famous computer brand is Brain Training: How Old is Your Brain? developed in association with Professor Ryūta Kawashima, a Japanese neuroscientist. The manufacturer, Nintendo, has been careful to emphasise that the games are not scientifically validated, but are instead inspired by Kawashima's work.

Studies on the effectiveness of the game have been inconclusive and general opinion seems to be that any brain training performed on a computer is no more effective than that carried out with pen and paper.

The games are strongly based on mathematics and logic, so can they provide a fun addition to these types of curricula? Do you believe they can offer benefits in cognitive development and health, or are children better off sticking with traditional educational resources and tuition?