How Brain Training Games Improve Cognitive Flexibility
Cognitive flexibility or conscious mental activities like thinking, remembering, learning and understanding refers to the ability to think about multiple aspects simultaneously. Although the definition can vary, one defined consistency is that cognitive flexibility is an element of executive functioning. The formal definition of executive functioning is the broad term for the neurologically-based skills that involves mental self-regulation and control in order to achieve a goal.
Now when it comes to research, measuring cognitive flexibility includes a wide array of variable tests such as A-not-B task, Cognitive Flexibility Inventory (CFI), Dimensional Change Card Sorting Task, Multidimensional Card Selection Task, the Stroop Test and the Wisconsin Card Sorting Task. Additionally, studies like the Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) have shown that specific brain regions are stimulated when a person participates in certain cognitive flexibility tasks. The brain regions include the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), basal ganglia, posterior parietal cortex (PPC) and the prefrontal cortex (PFC).
Improve Cognitive Flexibility
In the past, cognitive flexibility testing was generally focused on children and seniors. Similarly, various studies showed that certain games like crossword puzzles or concentration improved mental retention in both seniors and children. However, new research has discovered that certain video games can also improve cognitive flexibility. In fact, specific types of video games can delay mental decline in seniors such as dementia and increase speed and accuracy of reading skills among children.
In addition, video games that improve cognitive flexibility are not only helpful for seniors and children but they can benefit the memory of all ages. What is more, certain video games can improve more than just the memory. Current research shows that some video games can even make you smarter, such as critical thinking strategy games.
A study by the University College London and the Queen Mary University of London found that participants assigned to play “StarCraft” experienced improvements in their performance on psychological tests. As well, the participants completed cognitive flexibility tasks with greater speed and accuracy. The psychological tests were conducted prior and after 72 volunteers played “StarCraft” for 40 hours over a six to eight week period.
Brain Games for Memory
According to the University of Iowa, playing brain games for only two hours a week may help slow mental deterioration connected with the natural aging process. Their study involved 681 healthy individuals ages 50 and older who played 10 hours of specially designed video games over a five to eight week period. The research involved 4 different groups. One group was assigned computerized crossword puzzles. The other three groups played a brain game called “Road Tour”. The idea of the brain game is to match pictures of vehicles and to remember the location of a specific road sign. As the player advanced in levels the distractions increased making it more challenging. The study concluded that the brain games were able to delay the natural decline of various cognitive skills by up to seven years.
Research also shows that certain video games can help people sharpen their analytic skills, strengthen their visual and auditory memory, boost concentration and increase problem solving abilities. What is more, brain games may help with inhibition, emotional control, the working memory, generating ideas, improving perception, organizing and planning, improving appropriate spontaneous thinking and increasing the ability to monitor one’s own performance.
Brain Training Games
Today you can find numerous video games that will focus on stimulating particular areas of the brain. There are also brain games for specific types of brain training such as brain reflection, brain creativity, memory, brain stimulation, spatial intelligence, brain concentration, math problems, cognitive training, IQ boosting and many other brain training games. Brain training games are also available for all age groups, not for just seniors and children.
Brain training games can involve particular areas of study such as scientific games or brain games that challenge the memory. There are even video games that can be customized to fit your exact needs. In fact, there are brain games for all ages, levels and abilities.
Does Brain Training Stand the Test Time?
Up to the present time, there have been over 50 studies that have researched the benefits of brain training in humans. The good news: the majority of the results have been very encouraging. In fact, brain training has amazing results for short term. However, only a few studies have researched how brain training stands the test of time. One of the most recent discoveries was by Glenn Smith and her colleagues at the Mayo Clinic. The report stated that cognitively normal older adults who trained their brain were able to improve their auditory processing speed by around 58 percent as opposed to 7 percent in controls. The study included 487 adults ages 67 to 93 years. The group spent eight weeks at the Posit Science’s Brain Fitness Program. The multi-center IMPACT trial entailed viewing educational videos of art and history. After the study, the group also demonstrated increased improvement on overall cognition and memory than the control group (4 percent versus 2 percent improvement). In addition, forty-eight percent of the group later reported positive changes in their daily life like better self-confidence, improved recollection of shopping lists and the ability to attend to conversations in noisy surroundings.
The IMPACT study clearly shows that both trained and some untrained cognitive abilities can improve after just two months of controlled sensory input training. Other research suggests that sensory input training combined with brain games can immensely improve cognitive flexibility.
As more studies are done, it has become evident that brain training can improve cognitive flexibility as well as have long lasting benefits. And as far as brain games, they are quickly being perfected, are now specialized for explicit needs and are making ground breaking achievements for the improvement of cognitive flexibility.
Brain Training Games and the Child with ADHD
Dr. Bruce Wexler, C8 Sciences’ founder, and his research group at Yale have developed a “cross-training” program for the brain, combining both computer-based and physical exercises to improve the brain’s ability to learn. By aggressively targeting those regions of the brain left lagging by ADHD and other neurodevelopmental disorders, ACTIVATE™ goes beyond superficial symptom-masking to get at the real issue. Retraining the brain. Case studies conducted in schools have shown how dramatically ACTIVATE™ can change the course of a child’s cognitive development, due to their astounding neuroplasticity and brain growth capability.