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Brain Games & Brain Training - Lumosity

For those lazy types *cough*INTP*cough*
i saved you a little bit of work :tongue:

Brain Training Research
Warning: It is long
 
Brain Training Research

Doctors and scientists have studied the brain for hundreds of years, marveling at its ability to acquire new knowledge late into life. Until recently, the scientific community believed that learning happened by changing the strength of neural connections. This idea stemmed from the belief that the structure and organization of the brain did not change much after childhood.

Over the last few decades, however, researchers have discovered that the brain can fundamentally reorganize itself when confronted with new challenges, and that this can occur regardless of age. Evidence suggests that the brain, when given the right exercise, can actually reshape itself to become more efficient. This ability, known by scientists as "neuroplasticity," has far-reaching consequences. Neuroscientists and researchers are continuously discovering new ways for leveraging neuroplasticity to improve the brain's health and performance.

Neuroplasticity Research

In order to drive a cab around the serpentine urban streets of London, one must first pass a rigorous exam testing knowledge of point-to-point routes through the city. These routes are referred to as The Knowledge, and would-be taxi drivers spend months "on The Knowledge," studying the map of London in hopes of passing the exam. In 2000, researchers at University College London published an intriguing brain imaging study involving these individuals (Maguire, et al., 2000). They sought to discover what happens to the brains of taxi drivers as they go on The Knowledge. If the brain were a relatively static receptacle, passively absorbing information, then researchers would have expected to see few, if any, major structural changes in the brain. What they saw was dramatic and surprising. Researchers observed differences in the size and shape of crucial brain structures in taxi drivers relative to control subjects. In particular, a part of the hippocampus, a brain structure critically involved in memory and navigation, was larger in those who were on The Knowledge compared to those who were not. In subsequent analyses, the research team showed that these changes were related to the amount of time drivers spent on the knowledge. This was an early look into the brain's incredible ability to adapt to meet the demands placed on it, and to respond with increased capacity for tasks that exercise it.

Throughout the past decade, researchers have observed similar structural and functional brain changes associated with specific task demands. For example, medical students studying for exams undergo brain changes similar to those observed in the London taxicab study (Draganski, et al., 2006). Learning to juggle results in functional changes in brain areas associated with visual processing, at least temporarily (Draganski, et al., 2004). And Green and Bavelier 2003 showed that video game players performed better in measures of visual attention than non-players. What's more, when they asked non-players to play an action video game intensively over a period of several weeks, those individuals' visual attention capacities improved to look more like the gamers'.

These studies and other demonstrate just the tip of the neuroplasticity iceberg.


Brain Training Can Improve Intellectual Capacity

Research has shown that brains can be improved through training programs that target specific cognitive functions such as working memory, processing speed and fluid intelligence. Interactive multimedia software technology (like that used in video games) represents a highly effective and clinically proven method for delivering these brain training programs. These technologies can present users with specific cognitive tasks in a form that is intensive, repeatable, adaptive and highly targeted. This advance in technology, combined with a new appreciation of neuroplasticity, has led to an explosion of interest in computer-based brain training. Researchers have found that well-designed brain training technologies can achieve positive results for individuals of all ages.

For example, scientists at the University of Michigan recently examined the effects of the Dual N-Back, a challenging working memory and divided attention task on fluid intelligence performance in young adults (Jaeggi, et al., 2008). Fluid intelligence is the ability to creatively solve new problems, and it is measured as part of standard IQ tests. Conventional wisdom in psychology had said that intelligence is relatively fixed, without much potential for improvement. Yet participants who completed the Dual N-Back training showed statistically significant improvements in their fluid intelligence and working memory as compared to the control group. This research shattered the view that intelligence could not be changed in adults, and showed the potential for brain training to help even those who are already near the peak of cognitive performance.

Similar research has explored the degree to which brain training can combat the cognitive decline associated with the normal course of aging. The Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly (ACTIVE) study was a large, randomized, controlled trial testing the effects of three kinds of cognitive training (Ball, et al., 2002). The 2832 participants underwent approximately 10 one-hour sessions of training over about six weeks. This NIH-funded trial has produced a number of interesting results. Unsurprisingly, participants in all groups learned to perform the training tasks more efficiently. What was more impressive was that the effects of the training transferred to measures of real-world function. These functional benefits were observed five years after training was completed, indicating that the benefits were sustained for a substantial period of time (Willis, et al., 2006). The ACTIVE study demonstrates that cognitive training can have highly beneficial real-world benefits for seniors.

The evidence that “brain training works” is now sufficiently robust and compelling that it would be difficult for an objective, dispassionate observer to claim that there is no evidence that “brain training works.” That said, this is not the end of the story, but rather the beginning. Researchers still have much more to learn about how to apply and optimize this training for each individual’s unique goals. At Lumos Labs, we have created a research platform that allows us to facilitate the exploration of these issues in collaboration with the top researchers and institutions around the globe.

These are key concepts
Warning: It is long
 

Key Concepts

Designed by neuroscientists and based on extensive research, Lumosity's training program promotes cognitive health by selectively challenging cognitive faculties. Included below are some key concepts for understanding this process and brain training in general.

Adaptivity

Each individual brings his or her own unique set of strengths and weaknesses to any new task. A task that is quite easy for one person might be impossible for another. In order to derive benefit from training, the level of difficulty must be appropriately set at a level that is challenging without being discouraging. This level is different for each individual, and it will change over time as performance improves. This response to challenge is a central component of how the nervous system operates, and shaping the response properties of the system progressively and adaptively is a part of all effective learning processes. The critical insight for the purposes of cognitive training lies in the precise methods by which task difficulty is adjusted. Each task needs to be adapted in a way that optimizes training intensity and improvement in that domain. The ability to adjust task difficulty in response to individual users’ performance on a moment-to-moment basis is one of the key innovations in cognitive training that has been made possible by computer technology.

Cognitive reserve

Cognitive reserve represents the brain's resilience, its ability to cope with damage resulting from trauma, illness and age. More specifically, cognitive reserve speaks to the brain’s ability to maximize its performance by recruiting different or alternate brain networks to solve problems historically managed by now-damaged areas. Childhood cognition, educational attainment, and adult occupation all contribute to cognitive reserve. Research shows that brain training can also actively help individuals of all ages strengthen their cognitive reserve. That said, only brain training that challenges the brain with adaptive, novel and engaging exercises produces noticeable and long-term results.

Completeness

Many brain training programs were developed in the context of a narrow academic framework that targeted only a single neural system with highly specialized training. However, the brain is a highly complex, interacting, and integrated system. Training on a limited aspect of brain function, such as visual attention, auditory processing, or working memory, in isolation is unlikely to yield optimal results for real world function. Engaging in the tasks of daily living – working, going to school, caring for loved ones, recreating, etc. – requires the proper functioning of all aspects of cognition. If information is not processed rapidly, then rapidly evolving events, such as the plot of an action movie, will fly past and be missed. If this information is never properly processed, then it will not capture one’s attention, and will likely not be stored in memory. Similarly, if attention is limited, and cognitive energy and effort are not properly allocated, then critical information and events, such as the key plot twists in the movie, will be missed. Finally, if memory systems don’t function optimally, even attended-to information may not be retained over time, and it will be impossible to pull together disparate information – such as plot twists – into a coherent whole. Even in the simple case of watching an action film, all aspects of brain function must work together to lead to optimal understanding and appreciation.

Engagement

To get the most out of brain training, individuals should train often and consistently. To encourage people to do so, effective brain training must therefore possess engaging exercises and an effective reward structure. When the brain is in an engaged and rewarded state, it is much more open to learning and change. What’s more, the very process of being rewarded for correct responses in a given task teaches the brain mechanisms to process that information more effectively. The reward for correct performance tells the brain, “That worked, do that again when confronted with the same situation in the future.” If you are rewarded for your hard work, for example by receiving praise from colleagues, friends, or family, you will be more likely to work hard in the future. This basic premise holds for both physical and mental exercise, as well. One of the biggest reasons why many of us do not exercise as much as we should is that it can really hurt. We are much more likely to engage in exercise if it is fun and enjoyable.

Fluid intelligence

Fluid intelligence is the capacity to think logically independent of acquired knowledge. It is the ability to analyze novel problems, identify patterns, and extrapolate relationships. It is necessary for all logical problem solving, especially scientific, mathematical and technical problem solving. Researchers have found that the Dual N-Back significantly improves fluid intelligence measures.

Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s lifelong ability to reshape neural connections when faced with new experiences. Only recently, though, have neuroscientists discovered the extent of this ability. Given the right challenge, the brain can actually become faster and more efficient. Neuroplasticity, in other words, means anyone can improve their brain, and no matter what their age.

Novelty

In order to effectively exercise a brain, we must confront it with novel tasks and challenges. Many of the mental challenges typically recommended for brain health, for example crossword puzzles and bridge, are highly over-learned tasks that do not force the brain’s processing systems to operate in new ways. Yet unless we process information in new ways, we cannot initiate nervous system remodeling and growth. The brain creates specialized circuitry for doing particular tasks. Tasks that have been performed many times in the past simply reactivate the existing circuitry. This form of stimulation may be helpful in keeping the brain active, but it will not drive fundamental improvements in information processing. Take the case of crossword puzzles: as we work our way through a crossword puzzle, we recall information we have already learned in the past, albeit in the form of words. We are reactivating existing circuitry, not challenging the brain to work in new ways. Crossword puzzles thus provide a relatively inefficient form of brain exercise.

Processing speed

Processing speed measures how quickly the brain can perform basic cognitive operations, and is thus a good general indicator of intelligence. The faster you can process information, the faster you can respond to the world, e.g. while driving or making snap decisions. The brain’s processing speed unfortunately declines with age. With Lumosity’s training program, though, you can push the limit of your information processing speed.

Targeting

Effective brain training targets the specific brain functions necessary to produce significant and noticeable changes in our everyday cognitive life. Unlike poorly designed brain exercises that improve nothing but a user’s ability to complete the exercise, highly effective brain training improves not just an individual’s proficiency with the exercise itself, but also his or her ability to perform real-world tasks. Cognitive psychologists use the word “transfer” to describe the process whereby selectively-targeted exercises produce real-world cognitive benefits. Well designed exercises accomplish this transfer by improving multiple cognitive functions at once. That said, since no one training task can improve all aspects of cognition, an effective training program involves carefully crafting training tasks that target the most critical aspects of brain function.

Working memory

Working memory represents the cognitive ability to temporarily retrieve, hold, process and dispose of information from both long-term memory and the world around you. The better your working memory, the more information you can synthesize. Like processing speed, working memory declines with age. To address this concern, Lumosity offers several exercises based on the Dual N-Back, which research shows can significantly improve working memory.



im willing to try some theoretical brain training based on neuroplasticity...
my ISTJ father thinks this is a waste of time/money :rolleyes:
what are your thoughts?
 

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I started playing Lumosity games two or more times a day. There's different game-sections that relate to memory, problem solving, flexibility, attention, and speed. You can also track your progress overtime and play harder versions of the games as you go on. I've noticed a lot of improvement since playing, especially with my short-term memory and problem solving. The site basically has categorized brain-games for neural plasticity, designed by neuroscientists. Here's some more information.
 
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I feel more alert already. I noticed I was able to get more productive work done immediately after playing some of the games. I decided the cost of membership was less than I spend on a night's bar tab and went for it. We'll see how much of a difference it makes 1-2 months down the line.
 
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