The Beeb magazine has an article today featuring British scientist, Susan Greenfield’s thoughts on the PC game MindFit and similar ‘brain training’ games:
We all know the spiel here about how ‘exercising’ your brain with simple puzzles and memory games will give you a ‘younger brain age’. Now this claim has the endorsement of several scientists (in addition to Nicole Kidman). So, why do I find this endorsement somewhat misleading and deceptive?
As a cognitive scientist in training myself, I find the idea behind games like Brain Age to be simplistic and kind of silly. The idea that mini-games made up of tasks adapted from IQ tests and cognitive experiments is the
way to keep your brain active is my main problem here. I would guess that any
sort of mental activity that’s actually engaging and challenging would ‘work out’ your brain just as well.
To be sure, ‘brain games’ probably do help with mental flexibility and quickness. But other, typically brainy things probably help just as well. Reading a book, having a deep conversation, or coming up with a witty comment for Dtoid all exercise the brain pretty well I’d bet. Hell, how about just playing a game that’s actually mentally demanding? I would guess that any FPS, RTS, RPG, etc., would ‘work out’ your brain pretty damn well. For those of you who are old enough, think about how much memory and planning it took to get through Metroid or Zelda for the first time as a kid, all without the help of the internet. Games today can be far more complex and challenging than those, and they don’t even have to be about memorizing colored block patterns.
Does this mean games like Brain Age shouldn't be made, bought, and played? Well, no. If you happen to find those types of mini-games entertaining and fun, then by all means, you should play them. If you’re not doing anything else, it could even sharpen your wits I suppose. But the point is that so can many other things, including most other videogames, and scientists who only advocate one and not the other are doing gaming a bit of a disservice. read