Most of us fear memory loss. There is a natural progression of concentration and cognitive decline that occurs as we age. However, there is also brain deterioration that can progress unnaturally and turn into dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease.
Exercising our brains and keeping them healthy through the use of computer and mobile device games, is a very popular and thriving business, especially for the brain game industry. But do brain games really work to protect your brain and to improve reasoning, memory, decision-making and concentration skills? Or are they just marketing mind games?
Many brain game technology companies make claims (or infer) that practicing daily brain games is effective for improving memory and preventing memory loss. They tell customers that the user's brain changes for the better when practicing their games. This claim is based on their neuroscience belief that it helps to stimulate and strengthen different parts of the brain that are responsible for attention span, judgment, and memory.
How Do Brain Games Work?
Lumosity is one of the most popular brain game sites. It uses a series of problem-solving tasks that are set up to measure and assess planning, problem solving and memory. Lumosity uses snapshots of cognitive test scoring to show how you are improving or declining over time, in different parts of your brain. An example is the frontal cortex, which is responsible for judgement, attention span, reasoning and problem solving.
The University of British Columbia has conducted studies to see if these marketing claims are valid for improving brain age or brain health and in helping to reduce your chance of getting Alzheimer’s Disease. These studies have concluded that marketing companies are giving mostly false hope. Although the popular trend of doing brain games may seem like a miracle prevention for brain aging, these studies show otherwise.
In another new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, neuroscientists found that brain-training programs like Lumosity, had no discernible effect on the brain, or on cognitive performance. And in 2016, Lumosity was fined $2 million dollars for deceptive advertising.
Unfortunately, it appears that the results of these studies on brain games are showing that online brain-training does not improve a person’s planning, executive decisions, reasoning, and attention skills. They could possibly improve your skills in a particular game. However, there has been no strong empirical data to support the claims of marketing companies promoting brain games.
What Does Help Cultivate A Healthy Brain?
★ Physical Activity
There is considerable evidence that remaining physically active and physically fit, especially later in life, is an excellent way to maintain the brain’s cognitive health.
The foods you eat help to keep your brain healthy. Omega 3 and other brain nutrient rich foods such as olive oil, wild caught salmon, flax, hemp seeds, chia, coconut or MCT oils, blueberries, as well as turmeric root and curcumin can help to protect the neurons in the brain from being harmed by free radicals.
Also, keep in mind that an unhealthy lifestyle negatively affects brain health… smoking, recreational and pharmaceutical drugs, alcohol, chronic stress, and chronic insomnia may cause an acceleration of your brain’s premature decline.
★ New Skills
Learning a new skill outside of your comfort zone will help you build brain plasticity. The improvement comes once the brain creates new neuropathways to learn how to conceptualize the new skill. It is suggested that you try to do this two to three hours a week. This could include learning a new instrument, a new language or developing a new hobby. If all you have been doing is crossword puzzles for the last decade, it’s time to try something new. Even try to brush your teeth or learn to write with your non-dominant hand. It may be frustrating at first, but the learning curve will help you to build a stronger brain.
While brain games can be very entertaining, their effectiveness in preventing future dementia is lower than eating a daily bowl of blueberries or walking in the park with a new pet. The physical activity combined with the new-ness of your furry friend will use more of your brain and may even help you to forget why you were even worried about what you forgot, in the first place!