Brain training exercises improve memory, not intelligence

Although brain games keep up to their promise of improving mental abilities, they do not boost one’s intelligence quotient (IQ), researchers claim.

According to the researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology, playing brain games surely helps improve one’s ‘working memory capacity’ (WMC), increasing their ability to multitask. However, such games fail to boost ‘general fluid intelligence’ needed to infer relationships, do complex reasoning, and solve problems.

“It is hard to spend any time on the web and not see an ad for a website that promises to train your brain, fix your attention, and increase your IQ. These claims are particularly attractive to parents of children who are struggling in school, Psychological scientist Randall Engle of the Georgia Institute of Technology notes. But these advertisements are too good to be true, he averred.

The study
For the purpose of the study, researchers roped in 55 undergraduate students. The subjects were required to undertake 20 days of training on certain cognitive tasks.

To keep the students motivated and engaged in their training, the researchers paid them extra for improving their daily performance.

The participants were randomly divided into three groups. The first group received brain training for complex span tasks. While multitasking they were to recall the names of the items after watching presentations for them.

The second group received brain training for simple span tasks. These participants were to remember the names of the items that were presented to them in sequence. The third group formed the control, required to do a visual search task.

Both at the start and end of the training, the participants underwent tests to gauge their WMC and general fluid intelligence, and improvement in each, if any.

Only the participants who undertook the complex span tasks showed improvements in WMC at the end of the study, researchers highlighted.

“We were surprised to see evidence that new and untrained measures of working memory capacity may be improved with training on complex span tasks,” study researcher Tyler Harrison, a graduate student at the Georgia Institute of Technology, said.

“The results suggest that WMC and fluid intelligence are different hypothetical constructs and that an intervention that may improve WMC may have no effect on fluid intelligence,” the researchers wrote in the findings published in the journal Psychological Science .

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