Unless you have been living in a cave, you have read by now multiple articles about the brain training and brain exercise craze: sudoku, Nintendo BrainAge, multiple online games, software like MindFit and Posit Science. . .
How do you know which of them can help you more, or whether you need any of them? Well, that's why we are publishing the SharpBrains Checklist below, to help you navigate through the overwhelming and conflicting media reports and company announcements.
We have spent over 18 months interviewing scientists and reviewing available Brain Fitness and Exercise Programs worldwide, and we are going to share with you, right now, the research-based criteria we use to evaluate them.
***** 10 Questions to Choose the Right Brain Fitness Program for You (and a brief explanation of why each question is important)*****
* 1. Are there scientists, ideally neuropsychologists, and a scientific advisory board behind the program?
(Neuropsychologists specialize in measuring and understanding human cognition and brain structure and function. )
* 2. Are there published, peer-reviewed scientific papers in PubMed written by those scientists? How many?
(PubMed is a service of the U. S. National Library of Medicine that includes millions of citations science journals. If a scientist has not published a paper that appears in that database, he or she cannot make scientific claims. )
* 3. What are the specific benefits claimed for using this program?
(Some programs present the benefits in such a nebulous way that it is impossible to tell if they will have any results or not. )
* 4. Does the program tell me what part of my brain or which cognitive skill I am exercising, and is there an independent assessment to measure my progress?
(The question is whether the improvement experienced in the program will transfer into real life. For that to happen we need assessments that are distinct from the exercises themselves. )
* 5. Is it a structured program with guidance on how many hours per week and days per week to use it?
(Brain exercise is not a magic pill. You have to do the exercises in order to benefit, so you need clarity on the effort required. )
* 6. Do the exercises vary and teach me something new?
(The only way to exercise important parts of our brain is by tackling novel challenges. )
* 7. Does the program challenge and motivate me, or does it feel like it would become easy once I learned it?
(Good brain exercise requires increasing levels of difficulty)
* 8. Does the program fit my personal goals?
(Each individual has different goals/ needs when it comes to brain health. For example, some want to manage anxiety, others to improve short-term memory. . . )
* 9. Does the program fit my lifestyle?
(Some brain exercise programs have great short-term results but are very intense. Others may be better over time)
* 10. Am I ready and willing to do the program, or would it be too stressful?
(Excess stress reduces, or may even inhibit, neurogenesis-the creation of new neurons-. So, it is important to make sure not to do things that stress us in unhealthy ways. )
We hope this information is useful. Now, go and exercise your brain!
Copyright (c) 2007 SharpBrains
Alvaro Fernandez is the CEO and Co-Founder of SharpBrains, which provides the latest science-based information for Brain Health and Brain Fitness . Alvaro holds MA in Education and MBA from Stanford University. He has been teaching the class Exercising Our Brains at the San Francisco State University, and will be teaching The Science of Brain Health at UC-Berkeley Lifelong Learning Institute.