Is Brain-Training a Hoax?
In a society that glorifies brain-related companies such as Lumosity, it’s important to note that while their goal is moral, their process is inherently flawed.
As an Integrative Neuroscience major at Binghamton University, I can understand why parents and children alike fall for the tempting ways to enhance your brain’s functioning. After all, it’s no secret that as we begin to age, our memory and other senses begin to fade gradually and sometimes rather abruptly. Nevertheless, the market for these brain-training websites is alive and thriving.
Lumosity prides themselves in being able to “enhance neuroplasticity” through games and other tasks. While their mission statement is not incorrect, it’s not the only route to mental clarity. In a study done at Emory University, researchers took fMRI images of 21 students’ brains to study the impact of reading a novel on the neuroplasticity. The results were clear-cut: their brains had a heightened level of conductivity, allowing for neurons to move more swiftly around the brain.
Lumosity’s beneficial aspects can be replicated in a more simplistic manner. Also, by limiting ourselves to a single source of “brain enhancing” we are limiting our neurological growth. We need to begin to explore every alternative possible as it pertains to ensuring mental acuity.
In addition to what should be one’s daily reading ritual, the NIH published a study on how the brain’s conductivity is affected by meditation. There was an increase in “high-amplitude gamma activity during a form of OM meditation, non-referential compassion meditation…” Specifically, high levels of gamma activity have been linked to high levels of intelligence. What does this tell us? We are able to establish our own source of neuroplasticity enhancers through methods outside the confines of one’s computer screen.
To paint an image for you, while studying in the library for my chemistry final, I struggled to remember the polyatomic ions. Combining both my fitness enthusiasm and pre-med aspirations, I decided to make my own game. I allowed my colleague to test me on each ion. For each one I got wrong, I did 10 pushups. Needless to say, this was quite an effective spin on B.F. Skinner’s operant conditioning.
I understand that your needs may not involve a chemistry final. Still, it’s important to find a method that fits your needs. There should be no one source of brain-training.
The current method of optimizing brain functioning involves sitting in front of a computer performing game-like tasks to improve problematic cognitive hand movements, saccadic eye movement, or even multiplication. This is not a problem solely based in Lumosity’s foundation, it’s involved in many other corporations as well.
Instead of sitting at our computers for endless hours working on enhancing brain functioning, it should be apparent that we can achieve the same results without entering the trance of the computer. Our options are endless, though, including reading, exercise and meditation. Simple enough.
As a society, we look to identify our weaknesses, neurologically; as a result, our reflex is to Google a means of improvement. But consider what that entails for your brain. You are confining your brain to the space your “brain-train” company of choice provides.
It’s time we develop our own methods, our own means of optimization. It’s time we shy away from brand names and look for an alternative way to address your specific needs. It’s time to change your mind.
Davidson, R., & Lutz, A. (2010, September 23). Buddha’s Brain: Neuroplasticity and Meditation. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2944261/
Clark, C. (2013, December 17). A novel look at how stories may change the brain. Retrieved from http://esciencecommons.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-novel-look-at-how-stories-may-change.html
Scharf, J. (2018). Is Brain-Training a Hoax?. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 17, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/is-brain-training-a-hoax/