Brain training games get failing grade
That Nintendo brain-training game you’re carrying around in your purse may be sparking some mental activity, but new evidence suggests your prefrontal cortex may be just as happy with a crossword puzzle or a good book.
While millions of trendy puzzle-based video games have been sold around the world on the premise that they can improve cognitive function - and even reverse the signs of an aging brain - there’s nothing the “technological jewel” can do that low-tech alternatives can’t, according to cognitive psychologist Alain Lieury of the University of Rennes 2 in France. [...]
On the memory tests, which involved maps, the puzzles-only group showed a 33-per-cent improvement, but the Nintendo kids’ performance dipped 17 per cent. The Nintendo and puzzle groups matched each other with a 10-per-cent rise in logic scores. In math, all four groups - even the ones with no extra work - showed roughly an 18-per-cent jump in scores.
Personally, I’ve always thought that reading narratives is the best way to work the whole brain. Not just a cognitive workout, but a social education and a creative imaginative exploration. I find that the people I know who are active readers of fiction have greater mental dexterity than those who do not. This just a survey of my own friends. I notice that they are more easily engaged in abstract conceptualization of concrete things and have an active imagination. Those who read fiction less seem to be more baffled with questions that ask them to respond with multiple potential outcomes or too many variables, and difficulties making decisions.
I’ve always thought that reading a variety of narratives and fictions allows someone to see the world from many different perspectives, times, contexts… especially being able to see how different people deal with similar situations, or similar people deal with diverse events. The idea is that the reader is able to contextualize personal lived experience within myriad other character’s experience. This ability to compare, contrast and critically evaluate, assuming one is an active reader, is something the non-reader lacks. How can you cram many lifetimes of experience into a single few years? Stories and fiction allows us to live many lives from many perspectives and integrate what we experience in reading with what we experience in our own lives. And I really don’t know what other form of social interaction gives you that much bang for your buck.
I read a lot, and I watch a lot of movies. At least 3 movies a week. And I talk to lots of people and reflect a lot, and do yoga, etc. I don’t know of anything that has as much effect on my body and mind, and seems to help me in understanding how I can and might interact with the world around me. And I think on average about 50 books a year… fewer in the past 5 years as work has taken over, but as soon as I have a moment I feel compelled to read for the therapeutic effect… it is calming in the way a good long run might be for others.
This is not a professional opinion, just something I’ve noticed over my life. Your friends and mileage may vary.
So, in relation to children and technology, I’d like to say that the old technology of the book has not, IMHO, been superseded by a technological fix that does more… but rather does less.