BBC Earth (Asia) - - Science -

Any men­tal ex­er­cise helps cog­ni­tion by build­ing, length­en­ing or strength­en­ing the path­ways that carry in­for­ma­tion be­tween neu­rons. Gen­er­ally, the more path­ways you have, the bet­ter your cog­ni­tion.

When you carry out a par­tic­u­lar men­tal skill, con­nec­tive tis­sue builds up in the part of the brain re­spon­si­ble for it, just like arm ex­er­cises build your bi­ceps. For all-round cog­ni­tive im­prove­ment, there­fore, you should do lots of ev­ery­thing: mo­tor skills (ie, phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity), talk­ing, so­cial­is­ing, planning, game-play­ing, cal­cu­lat­ing, writ­ing, read­ing and talk­ing. But the prob­lem is that we tend not to do ev­ery­thing, es­pe­cially as we get older.

This is where brain train­ing comes in. Sys­tems like Lu­mos­ity, Brain HQ and SmartMind claim to ex­er­cise all parts of your brain, and thus to raise your cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties gen­er­ally, rather than in one par­tic­u­lar area. Alas, the proof of this is just not there. Sci­en­tists re­viewed the lit­er­a­ture that brain-train­ing com­pa­nies cite to sup­port their prod­ucts and found that, while peo­ple got bet­ter at in­di­vid­ual tests, there was no gen­eral im­prove­ment in cog­ni­tion.

Brain-train­ing apps only im­prove the brain’s per­for­mance at par­tic­u­lar tasks

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