A recent consensus report raised concerns that there is insufficient evidence to support some of the claims of the brain training industry. But far from condemning the brain training effort, a call for more evidence is a sign that an effect is worthy of investigation and a call to researchers to pay attention to an important topic.
A sensational headline in the Daily Mail (UK, November 19th) read “Brain training is 'a waste of time': Computer games designed for older people are only effective if undertaken with expert supervision . However, a closer introspection of the original scientific paper reveals a more positive story.
The brain training industry has got a bad rap for breaking every rule in the good science book; premature promises, poor scientific reasoning, mistaking correlation for causation, and using “neuro-jargon” in its marketing blurbs. But let's not forget…there is some good science behind brain training.
The aim of brain training is ultimately to improve intellectual functioning and this can be achieved in two ways; "top down" through guessing at which types of brain stimulation should lead to better brain functioning associated with particular skills, or “bottom up” in terms of identifying the basic components of the skills we want to improve … and simply training them.
Behavioral researchers have hit upon what they believe to be the basic building blocks of intelligence - a set of skills, known as relational framing skills, that appear to function as behavioral precursors for a wide range of intellectual abilities.
In the field of psychology and IQ testing, large sample studies are better than small sample studies. Right? Well, it's not so simple. Large sample studies might generate very significant results–but do many of us take the time to understand why a large sample study might be needed for a particular experimental designs?