Friday, June 24, 2011

Does cognitive training work?

From Jaeggi et al., this open access article on their most recent cognitive training studies:
Does cognitive training work? There are numerous commercial training interventions claiming to improve general mental capacity; however, the scientific evidence for such claims is sparse. Nevertheless, there is accumulating evidence that certain cognitive interventions are effective. Here we provide evidence for the effectiveness of cognitive (often called “brain”) training. However, we demonstrate that there are important individual differences that determine training and transfer. We trained elementary and middle school children by means of a videogame-like working memory task. We found that only children who considerably improved on the training task showed a performance increase on untrained fluid intelligence tasks. This improvement was larger than the improvement of a control group who trained on a knowledge-based task that did not engage working memory; further, this differential pattern remained intact even after a 3-mo hiatus from training. We conclude that cognitive training can be effective and long-lasting, but that there are limiting factors that must be considered to evaluate the effects of this training, one of which is individual differences in training performance. We propose that future research should not investigate whether cognitive training works, but rather should determine what training regimens and what training conditions result in the best transfer effects, investigate the underlying neural and cognitive mechanisms, and finally, investigate for whom cognitive training is most useful.

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