Is Brain Training Effective or Just a Modern Myth?
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In the same way that you work out to keep your body healthy and in peak performance, you can also keep your brain in optimal condition with the help of brain training.
What exactly is brain training? It pertains to exercises as well as solutions, tools or programs that help strengthen the brain. It works with the concept of neuroplasticity, or brain plasticity, which means the brain is malleable — it is able to learn, grow and change as a person ages. As such, training helps the brain develop by changing or improving brain waves, the brain’s structure, or the brain’s specific skills (such as idea processing or working memory).
Does brain training produce lasting and legitimate results, or is it simply a modern myth? Let’s learn more about brain training below.
Does Brain Training Work?
One technique that makes brain training increasingly feasible is called neurofeedback — a non-invasive NASA-patented technology that has proven success in addressing different health issues such as focus, depression, anxiety, chronic pain, and insomnia. Neurofeedback has also been observed to improve neuroregulation and metabolic function in patients with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD.
There is substantial support for using neurofeedback for ADHD as a supplementary treatment from certain medical professionals, specifically some from the ADHD community.
One example is Amit Etkin, Ph.D., who is an assistant professor at Stanford University’s department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences. He says, “The potential for brain training as a new therapeutic tool is phenomenal…By understanding brain circuitry, we can tailor interventions that medication or psychotherapy do not access or improve. The great advantage is that these programs are not invasive, have minimal side effects, and are, for the most part, fun.”
In addition, there are testimonials from parents of children with ADHD who report observing significant control of ADHD symptoms beyond the duration of their children’s neurofeedback therapy sessions.
What Is Neurofeedback Therapy Like?
Neurofeedback is a type of biofeedback, which is a method of monitoring biological data in real time to enable a person to change or control certain physiological functions. Electroencephalography or EEG is used to help train the brain. This treatment does not make use of medication and has no known or lasting negative side effects.
To better understand how neurofeedback works, picture an individual sitting down and focusing on a computer screen. Sensors are attached to the person’s scalp to record their brain activity, and special software is used to relay this brainwave information to them in real time through audio and video.
One brain training neurofeedback session would typically run for about 45 minutes. The recommendation is to attend a minimum of 20 sessions in order to experience lasting and significant benefits. Of course, the required number of sessions may differ from one person to another since the neurofeedback therapy will be customized to address each individual’s needs.
The result? A person’s brain will be able to self-regulate its functions and apply the skills learned to various real-world situations. Neurofeedback therapy could help a person (could be a child or an adult) enhance their memory, improve focus, and attention, get better sleep, calm anxiety, elevate athletic performance, or reduce hyperactive or impulsive behavior.
Benefits of Brain Training
Brain training is designed to improve a person’s health and performance; this includes all emotional and psychological aspects, as well as well-being. It has been proven to be successful in addressing different issues, such as (but not limited to):
- Anger Management
- Learning disabilities
- Memory loss
- Peak performance
- Sleep disorders
What Are Brain Games?
Brain training can also take the form of brain games or activities and exercises that a person can do for fun, but also serve to stimulate their thinking. The games can help improve specific cognitive skills, which in turn contributes to the maintenance of overall brain health.
What are examples of brain games? Some of the more traditional ones are Sudoku and chess. Word puzzles are also popular, such as Scrabble and crossword puzzles. If you are not as interested in giving your brain a mental workout with such games, you could turn to other creative and equally rewarding activities instead: playing a musical instrument, making art (like painting or crafts), or learning to speak a different language.
These brain games may have significant long-term benefits for brain health in terms of sharpening specific thinking skills that typically wane as a person gets older, according to Dr. Julie Brody-Magid, clinical director of Harvard-affiliated McLean Hospital’s Memory Disorders Assessment Clinic. These skills include reaction time, planning, processing, short-term memory and decision-making. As such, these games and exercises could have a positive impact on older individuals with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.
In addition, there are brain training apps that are fun to use, can be easily accessed through computers or mobile devices, and are quite cheap. These apps can potentially help stimulate and enhance cognitive skills such as problem solving, focus or attention, and visual processing.
Examples of brain training apps or programs that were specifically designed for individuals with ADHD are:
- Interactive Metronome/Brainbeat (a program that helps children perform physical exercises in specific predetermined rhythms to improve coordination, processing speed and focus)
- Cogmed (a working memory-training software)
- Play Attention (a learning system that combines cognitive training, neurofeedback, nutrition advice, parent training, and coaching and helps users complete tasks, improve memory and ignore distractions)
- LearningRX (a program that combines physical cognitive and computer-based exercises to help improve cognition and IQ scores in both children and adults)
Brain Training Works
Brain training in its various forms (such as neurofeedback, brain games and brain apps) have been shown to produce positive results in terms of improving essential thinking skills and addressing the needs of children and adults alike, without including medication or psychotherapy.
Get in touch with our team at Evolve Brain Training today to find out how your unique needs can be effectively addressed.
Dr. Upasana Gala is the founder and CEO of Evolve Brain Training, a Neurofeedback centered institute that focuses on using non-invasive brain training techniques to maximize the brain's true potential.