“Bang Goes the Theory” – brain training study

Posted: October 15, 2009

A study is being done by a BBC television show called “Bang Goes the Theory” about brain training. The show is hoping to prove whether or not brain training really works. Anyone over the age of 18 can register online to participate in the study, and each participant is required to perform different computerized tasks online 10 minutes a day, at least three times a week, for six weeks.

The study authors are hoping to gather solid data not only showing whether or not the brain can be trained, but also, what kind of training is best, and how effectively this training transfers to a person’s overall intelligence.

The study authors claim, correctly, that most brain training products on the market today do not have valid scientific data to back up their claims. Dr. Adrian Owen describes a valid scientific study on the show’s website as peer-reviewed, placebo-controlled, benchmark tested, and focused on what it is observing. Click here to read this explanation.

This explanation is important for Cogmed because it shows why Cogmed’s research is so unique among other computerized brain training programs. Cogmed’s research meets all of the above criteria and has been conducted by fully independent, leading institutions and published in some of the world’s top academic journals.

There are five concerns that should be highlighted in reference to the BBC study:
1. How are the users screened – what kind of group will it be? With no screening and no randomization, what can be concluded from the data?
2. What kind of training are the subjects doing? The type of computerized tasks that the subjects perform is a crucial consideration in any brain-training program. Is it adaptive? Do the tasks target a specific brain function?
3. Is the training model (10 minutes a day, 3 times a week) enough to show results?
4. Is the wide open format controlled enough to make any conclusive claims, or are there too many variables? What is the primary outcome measure?
5. How will compliance be ensured, measured, and taken into account?

The BBC project raises good questions. But the way they will address them is not very compelling. This is a project for the brain training game category, with all its inherent incoherence. It is not much of an addition to the field of evidence-based cognitive training.

Click below to view the “Brain Test Britain” website:

www.bbc.co.uk/labuk