But before we jump onto the Brain Train bandwagon, what are the brain training products out there actually designed to do?
Some are designed to improve memory skills, pattern recognition skills, math skills, others merely vaguely say the product will make you smarter or more intelligent. So what are really we buying into?
According to Richard Palmer the author of the book “Brain Train”, directed cognitive training can help improve specific cognitive skills or abilities, but there is at the moment no one strategic Brain Workout method, rather that “cognitive enhancement requires the engagement in a variety of activities (including computer-based ones), those activities must be novel, adaptve and challenging–which is why computer-based programs can be helpful.” He also says “we have many different cognitive abilities, such as attention, memory, language, reasoning and more, so it makes sense to have different programs designed to train and improve each of them.”
There are programs such as Brain Fitness 2.0 program developed by Dr Michael Merzenich which focus on directed cognitive training.
There are programs, eg by Dr Torkel Klingberg that focus on enhancing working memory training.
Or there are programs that focus on improving attention control, eg Dr Daniel Gopher’s program.
Of course for some time, there have many studies on how music or physical exercise can improve some of those targeted areas. Aerobic exercise is said to have benefits for cognitive abilities but none for memory abilities.
According to the Brain Train Study Skills Course Study, students should master techniques and skills for exam or test-taking which include being able to:
Identify key points Have a solid comprehension of the subject being revised.
Identify key words Pinpoint specific words related to the main idea.
Organise ideas Note ideas in a way to aid understanding and leraning.
Memory techniques Learn simple ways to recall specific facts and details.
Assess knowledge Determine which topics have been learned well and which require more time and effort
Time management Discover how to use time effectively.
Retention Ensure what’s learned is stored in thelong-term memory.
These study skills don’t really require sophisticated brain training electronic products, good old fashioned academic methods work, perhaps only those products that actually train memory techiques are the exception.
Related links and info to check out:
Brain Train by Richard Palmer Review at amazon.co.jp
Tony Buzan’s Mindmapping website
Sharp Brains at sharpbrains.com
Watch this video on the BBC news website. It is a news item looking at a new teaching style – a brain friendly style. This incorporates short bursts of learning followed by some physical activity. It also discusses the importance of understanding of brainwave activity.
Study Skills links xavier.edu
Xavier Education’s The Learning Assistance Centerwrites on Study_Skills
Concentration tips from academictips.org
How to cram from academictips.org
Music linked to advanced verbal skills Science daily.com
Japan Creativity Society website
Educational kinesiology and the Brain Gym work of Paul and Gail Dennison. Their work has concentrated on the importance of movement in the learning process and they have over the years developed specific movements and training programs that frequently make an enormous difference in learning. There is a very detailed web site at
Brain gym is a set of over 26 activities that are designed for balancing the brain (both sides and front and back) so that each of us can be prepared for optimal learning power. During the certification each of the activities is introduced through a process called a balance. This 5 step process leads each person through an individualized experience with how they learn and what strategies they need to be at their best for learning in any situation. Please visit the website at braingym.org
Smart Moves book by Carla Hannaford
Shichida Method and the Shichida Child Academy is perhaps the most famous of right brain methods in Japan. To find out more, read our feature “Signing up for Dr Shichida’s Spy-Kids School?” 5 English books have ben published by the Shichida Educational Institute, Ltd., and eight Chinese books published by Shichida Pre School in Taiwan, the order form is downloadable at PDF. (At this link is an article that compares the Brain Gym and Shichida methods.) Read also Japan Times article Prodigies in a flash
Mikihouse Kids http://www.mhkidspal.com/ conducts right brain classes for 1 year-olds through preschool kids at 56 nationwide locations in wellknown department stores such as the Sogo Department stores. Their classes (Mondays through Saturdays, available from 10 am – 5 pm) are tailored to deliver preschool learning in a fun environment. There are two kinds, the Kidspal regular preschool course or the English conversation Eikawa
Club one. My son went to one when he was two to three years old and enjoyed them thoroughly.
Brain game can boost IQ – Here’s 5 new brain games to play now
Fri May 2, 2008
According to one group of brain doctors at the University of Michigan, at long last a mental exercise has been discovered that could really make you smarter. Literally, if the research is correct, the more you play and the harder you play it, the smarter you get.
The game is pretty simple in design: Players are presented with a computer screen that shows a pattern of squares. If the pattern matches the same one the player saw two patterns earlier, he pushes a button with one hand. At the same time, he has to listen to letters narrated over a set of headphones. If the letter matches the one said two letters earlier, he pushes a button with his other hand. The better the player does, the longer the interval stretches out: Three patterns and letters earlier, then four, and so on.
In tests, 20 minutes of daily training over a varying period of time led to “significantly” increased IQ vs. a control group, and the longer people played the game, the higher their IQ got. The study is of course contested for a variety of reasons: Primarily, that it was too small to be scientifically rigorous. But if it pans out, this is good news for people who want to improve their intelligence through video games, or at least help stave off the effects of old age with them.
Alas, the U-Mich game just doesn’t sound like that much fun. But there are a ton of new games on the market that aim to help you improve logical thinking, reaction time, and coordination. If matching dots on a screen isn’t your idea of a good time, check out one of these new titles:
This browser-based game offers about a dozen mini-games, each designed to help with one area of cognition, including memory, processing speed, attention span, and “cognitive control.” Many games are surprisingly similar in design to the one in the Michigan study and some present a real challenge. ($9.95 a month, pictured)
Brain Challenge (Xbox Live Arcade)
Similar to Lumosity, this used to be a cell phone game that was ported to the Xbox. A series of mini-games asks you what comes next in a sequence of graphic designs, count items quickly, do basic math questions, and more. 30 types of rapid-fire games are available, and your progress is tracked by the game over time. (800 points)
Rocky & Bullwinkle (Xbox Live Arcade)
No, I wouldn’t have expected a game based on a hapless cartoon duo to be good for the brain, but this set of WarioWare-like micro games are great for those looking to boost reaction time and improve eye-hand coordination. Nothing here is too complex (quick: click the correct button in the next 2 seconds!), but it’s all good for working on the “twitch” reflex. (800 points)
This challenging board game comes to the PSP, offering a grid in which you have to place your Tetris-like pieces in such a way that they touch only on their corners. It really works on your pattern recognition skills and gets exceptionally tough when playing with a group of four. ($20)
No, it’s not a brain game at all, but really little kids won’t be able to manage the controls and strategies of most of the above titles. Still they shouldn’t be left out of the fun. Wild Earth isn’t exactly the most thrilling title on the market, but youngsters will enjoy looking at the animals on this virtual photo hunt while