Wednesday, May 21, 2008

MindBlog becomes a drop-out student at a brain enhancement site

When the folks at offered me a free log in to check out their brain enhancement/preservation exercises I said "Sure, I'll try it out and do a review." The site offers a brief discussion of the science of brain fitness is offered, and the scientific contributors have reasonable credentials. Several have associations with gerontology and aging programs, as is the case with other brain enhancements sites. The single study I was pointed to testing the effects of the happy-neuron exercises was a pilot effort carried out by Robert Bender, a geriatrics and family practice physician in Des Moines, Iowa. He did not respond to my email requesting information on the study.

Well.... to do a proper review one really has to get into it, and I tried, but simply was unable to do this. One could just pick directly from ~ 35 classic style tests (of memory, attention, language, executive function, and visual spatial skills) with a thin video game veneer, or let a "coach" present you with 20 minutes worth of exercises. I chose the "coach" option which chooses exercises for you, monitors your progress, strengths and weaknesses, etc. (It didn't tell me what my strengths and weaknesses were, but perhaps I didn't stick with it long enough for it to get back to me...) The exercises were mildly engaging and indeed left me feeling 'brain tired' after 20 minutes. I did get a bit tired of variations on the towers of Hanoi game (classic form, then basket balls in hoops, then bells in cathedral towers, etc.) I found the 'exit' or 'next' buttons sometimes blanked out or froze the browser window.

I found it difficult to get hooked on the system in a daily basis (I came along before the video game revolution on which my kids were raised). The exercises soon took on an "eat your spinach" aspect. I suspect my motivation might have been greater to pursue them if had been accumulating more striking evidence of my own impending cognitive decline.

I did find it very interesting to pursue the exercises to the point of brain fatigue, which my brain was clearly saying "enough of this, dammit, I'm tired." However, I have not found exercise to the point of fatigue useful or relevant in the daily gym routine to which I am addicted (varying combinations of running, swimming, weights at the Univ. of Wisconsin gym). I feel it would take a similar sort of addiction process to bind me to the routine performance of games like these, and I did not get reinforcement from the "coach" that might have nudged me in that direction ("Hey, you're doing great on executive function and rotating visual images, but your short term memory sucks...")

I may continue to putter with this as well as other brain exercise sites, and if lightning strikes and I get enthusiastic, I'll report back to you.

No comments:

Post a Comment