Does Brain Age Work?

Nintendo games such as “Brain Age” have been popular for a few years.  And like a lot of fads, my family is usually the last to get on the band wagon (if we bother hopping on at all)!

Advertisements suggest that “Brain Age” will exercise your pre-frontal lobe.  The implication is that your brain will get a daily work-out and your memory and over-all mind-power will be enhanced.

Last year a New York Times article downplayed the “braining training phenomenon.”  The reporter’s opinion: Brain Age games help you learn specific tasks.  So, if you spend your time practicing Sudoku, you’ll improve your Suduku skills.  Big deal!

However, I think there might be more benefit to it than that.  Perhaps the game won’t stave off Alzheimer’s, but my kids are more enthusiastic about problem solving and memorization.

Basic Math

My kids have been playing with their Brain Age game for only a few days, so I don’t know how long the love affair will last.  However, as of right now, they are in love with the math section.  The problems are simple stuff they already know: addition, multiplication, subtraction.  But they are trying to beat their time and improve their accuracy.  These are elements that have frustrated them before.  Normally, when my daughter sits in front of a math problem, she day dreams her way through long-division, always taking forever to complete her problems.  She’s the type of kid who feels a lot of time-related pressure.  (She has a Baseball Math game that she hates because it allow only a few seconds to answer the questions.)  However in “Brain Age,” she’s trying to beat her best time — and not trying to beat the clock.  There’s no angry buzzer, just her own personal sense of self-improvement.

Sudoku

I can’t say that Sudoku develops any worth while critical thinking skills.  But perhaps I’m just bitter because I’m terrible at the darn game.  My kids like this activity –but it isn’t their favorite feature.  If it develops anything, I would guess that it enhances once attention to detail and perhaps increases one’s level of patience.  (Unless one decides to chuck the machine against the wall — but again, that’s just me!)

Reading Aloud

As a parent of a reader with special needs, I truly appreciate this feature.  One of the “Brain Age” activities involves reading words, sentences, and paragraphs aloud.  My nine-year-old usually doesn’t want to read out loud.  Yet, for some reason, she has embraced reading aloud for the sake of the game.  She’s quite determined to improve her reading time (of which “Brain Age” keeps track).  She also likes the fact that the reading level increases, and I like listening to her confidence grow.

So, does “Brain Age” increase one’s memory?  Probably not any more than reading a newspaper or doing a crossword.  But does “Brain Age” inspire me kids to challenge themselves and have fun learning / practicing basic skills? The answer is yes.