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Brain Training Program Evaluation Checklist

Posted By Alvaro Fernandez On June 8, 2008 @ 2:19 In | 6 Comments

To help con­sumers and pro­fes­sion­als nav­i­gate through the grow­ing num­ber of pro­grams mak­ing “brain fit­ness” or “brain train­ing” claims, we offer this Sharp­Brains SharpBrains Checklist [1]Check­list:

10 Ques­tions to Eval­u­ate Brain Fit­ness Pro­grams - 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 [2] 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? What spe­cific cog­ni­tive skill is the pro­gram training?

Some pro­grams present the ben­e­fits in such a neb­u­lous way that it is impos­si­ble to tell if they will have any results or not. “Brain train­ing” itself is a lim­ited ben­e­fit, because activ­i­ties like gar­den­ing or learn­ing a new lan­guage pro­vide “brain train­ing” too…you need to see some­thing more spe­cific, like what cog­ni­tive or emo­tional skill that pro­gram is aimed at enhancing.

* 4. Does the pro­gram tell me what cog­ni­tive or emo­tional 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?

Cog­ni­tive train­ing, or brain train­ing, 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 men­tal exer­cise requires increas­ing lev­els of difficulty.

* 8. Does the pro­gram fit my per­sonal goals?

Each indi­vid­ual has dif­fer­ent goals and 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 train­ing pro­grams have good 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. Feel free to share it!

SharpBrains Checklist [1] 10 Ques­tions to Choose the Right Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for You
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SharpBrains Checklist Bookmark [3] 10 Ques­tions to Choose the Right Brain Fit­ness Pro­gram for You (Book­mark size)
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    [2] PubMed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed

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