Sunday, January 20, 2013
The topic of this blog is determining the value of brain games, in follow-up of Ted C. Fishman's May 9, 2012 USA Today article "Gaming Our Brains: Do online mind exercises really improve our mental processing? As the article indicated, the internet is being flooded with a variety of visual memory games and is a $300 million a year business with millions of hours spent playing these exercises.
The concern is that many games are random, non-progressive visual memory for detail exercises that simply measure "right and wrong" speed recognition answers. which can be discouraging to the learner, if not completely beneficial.
Although our cognitive skills have been shown to diminish as we age. i.e. auditory memory (listening) declines at age 35, but varies greatly depending upon the actual task coordinated with the person's innate ability (Craik & Grady, 2000. Changes in Memory Processing with Age). And, there is a high correlation to our sensory acuity of visual, hearing, gait, and balance (p.2). Additionally, Many have cognitive processing discrepancies that they compensate for on a daily basis, and can be improved through the correct intervention.
This indicates that we all would benefit from brain exercise, but what programs will be beneficial specifically to our own personal needs? Subsequently, are short, random, visual brain exercises worth our time, effort, and money? Although the exercises do no harm, how will we know which programs will work most effectively for us?
The key to these exercises is whether they can create "clinical transfer" to every day life work and learning activities. The Mem-ExSpan thirty years of independent research has documented cognitive skills-memory transfer (five published, juried, award winning, longitudinal reports) with remarkable changes in academic and work proficiency. This work is at least a start in the vast research to be continued by many around the globe.
The program that has shown work and academic proficient transfer is called, "The Bridge to Achievement". (The BTA) The question is - how does the BTA differ from other random exercise games offered by competing companies?
My former blog commented on how we each have our own brain map of cognitive skills that make up Intelligent Quotients (IQs). This topic has been explored for decades by various psychologists and scientists evaluating the role that memory plays with daily functioning.
The BTA offers more than mere self-taught memory games, and works as a prescriptive system to strengthen visual AND auditory memory segments and sequencing in gradient, rehearsed steps. Craik and Lockhart"s Hierarchy work (1972) demonstrated the various incremental levels of memory absorption, and the influencing factors create "cementing" to our minds. The BTA steps encompass rapid right-and-left-brain cognitive shifts applying tonal patterning through musical phrasing. Subsequently, synapses strengthen.
Few specialists have conducted in-depth, standardized cognitive skills diagnostics to the extent of examination that I have completed, applying ten standardized cognitive skills test batteries individually and group pre- and post-test (6 hrs. intensive measurement per student), and evaluating them with schools' yearly standardized assessment batteries. Only through this type of correlated, tracked assessment can future change processes and trending be determined and predicted.
I was fortunate that I tested individuals in small town, small group settings, where the schools had students that remained and moved lock-step through the grades. Otherwise, they could not be tracked longitudinally.
Having our own personalized cognitive skills tested has high personal value and will direct to your training options. Yet, psychological assessments are expensive and hard to come by, as they must be conducted by a certified psychologist/clinician/diagnostician. Whether you utilize "indicator" free tests, or pay for a thorough psychologist's evaluation, it is helpful to know your visual and listening area strengths and weaknesses, as this information will be key in determining your required specific intervention, and that you are not wasting your time working on the wrong cognitive area.
It can not be deduced that ANY game will produce desired results, or are similar to the BTA program. Will tracking the random answers of millions playing games produce significant clinical trial information? This is unlikely, because each person has their own cognitive brain map, which processes uniquely to themselves, and gaming tracking systems will not measure specific cognitive improvement in directed areas.
Only by thoroughly assessing each of the millions through prescriptive cognitive skills diagnostics, will it be determined the effectiveness of random brain games. Longitudinal assessment through learning management systems (LMS), will be unlikely, as people will not commit to independent, self-instruction on a continuous basis, nor can cognitive assessment be administered effectively online. Subsequently, it will be unlikely that the games played will have futuristic measurement capabilities of seeing if the memory for visual detail exercises "transfer" to higher work and academic learning proficiency.
Yet, we can not overlook the possibility that the games are fun to play.