Brain training: Focus or hocus-pocus?


Brain training is part a multi-billion-dollar enrichment industry. But does it work?

A 2011 study by University of London, Birkbeck, found that babies who were shown a series of computer programmes encouraging them to focus on different parts of the screen performed better than those in tests to measure powers of concentration.

The researchers said the findings were significant because improved focus helps children to pick up skills and acquire languages, and the brain is at its most adaptable early in life.

There is also a study by the University of Eastern Finland which found that poorer motor performance was linked to worse academic skills in children, especially among boys.

These are the bases on which many of the brain-training centres are build.

But detractors insist it is all hocus-pocus.

Dr Ulman Lindenberger of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Human Development says there is "little evidence that playing brain games improves underlying broad cognitive abilities, or that it enables one to better navigate a complex realm of everyday life".


Also sceptical, the director of the Center for the Developing Brain at the Child Mind Institute in New York, Dr Mike Milham, says: "There is some research saying brain training has some value and other research saying that it doesn't.

"No one has shown a particularly impressive effect size, so even when you show some benefits, is it worth the time and money spent?"