Brain jogging—is there anything in it?
A person’s memory, concentration and logical thinking begin to deteriorate from their mid-20s. Brain training is designed to slow down this decline.
For a computer, it’s easy. Its memory expands with its hard disk capacity. Giving it more memory and more processor power make it run faster. A human brain is far more complex, but many neuroscientists are convinced that brain performance can also be increased.
Since new brain cells continue to form even in advanced old age, and synapses are continually connecting and reconnecting, they believe that the structures of our thinking apparatus are plastic and malleable. In particular, that our short-term memory—our personal RAM—can be optimized through targeted training. Positive long-term effect: In a trained brain, a person’s decline in memory capacity, ability to concentrate and logical reasoning from their mid-20s progresses more slowly.
Growing market for brain training
This is the hypothesis put forward by providers of brain training and their growing clientele. These include the Berlin company Synaptikon GmbH. Its online platform NeuroNation, which was developed together with researchers from the Technical University Dortmund and Free University Berlin, is a training facility for more than 6 million users. These receive personalized tasks that they can perform on a smartphone or computer. Background algorithms adjust the level of difficulty to the user’s current performance. It’s all achieved through play. Users can also contact and challenge each other.
Many other apps, including Quizduell, which has been downloaded worldwide by over 50 million users, or Peak brain training, rely on play and enjoyment to increase mental fitness. The German institute Gesellschaft für Gehirntraining addresses the problem more seriously. It also offers its users online training and provides additional scientific background information.
The effectiveness of such training is not undisputed
Synaptikon cites studies indicating that the “Digital Brain Health” market is set to grow to 6 billion US dollars by 2020. There is, however, still some dispute as to whether brain performance is really improved by fun and excitement. Many studies support the effectiveness of brain jogging, but there are also a number of large-scale studies offering evidence to the contrary. Both sides accuse each other of badly designed surveys. It seems that in the end you can only learn from experience.