Brain Training Works, but Just for the Practiced Task

January 2, 2014
Science Daily/University of Oregon
Search for "brain training" on the Web. You'll find online exercises, games, software, even apps, all designed to prepare your brain to do better on any number of tasks. Do they work? University of Oregon psychologists say, yes, but "there's a catch."

The catch, according to Elliot T. Berkman, a professor in the Department of Psychology and lead author on a study published in the Jan. 1 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, is that training for a particular task does heighten performance, but that advantage doesn't necessarily carry over to a new challenge.

The training provided in the study caused a proactive shift in inhibitory control. However, it is not clear if the improvement attained extends to other kinds of executive function such as working memory, because the team's sole focus was on inhibitory control, said Berkman, who directs the psychology department's Social and Affective Neuroscience Lab.

"With training, the brain activity became linked to specific cues that predicted when inhibitory control might be needed," he said. "This result is important because it explains how brain training improves performance on a given task -- and also why the performance boost doesn't generalize beyond that task."

"Researchers at the University of Oregon are using tools and technologies to shed new light on important mechanisms of cognitive functioning such as executive control," said Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation and dean of the UO Graduate School. "This revealing study on brain training by Dr. Berkman and his team furthers our understanding of inhibitory control and may lead to the design of better prevention tools to promote mental health."
Science Daily/SOURCE :http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140102112324.htm

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