Computer-based brain training is all the rage at the moment with a big emphasis on staving off dementia. But the best studied brain training programs are aimed at what’s called working memory in both children and adults.
The question is though, do they work?
Working memory difficulties are often observed in lack of attention. People who have problems with working memory might notice that they are forgetting things in their daily life; that when people are talking to them they can’t keep track of the conversation if it’s complex.
Working memory is the ability to hold information in your mind and then work with that information over a short period of time.
It’s stuff that’s coming fresh into your brain from the environment, which you then hold in a network of nerves in your brain, then retrieve it when you require, to solve the problem. In other words it’s all in a mixmaster there in your brain, while you solve the problem and some people just can’t.
There’s a leakage, which doesn’t allow you to hold it long enough to solve the problem or get on with the task. With computerised working memory training programs, the person trains on tasks that are presented on a computer or on an iPad repeatedly over many days or weeks.
It’s about training the nerves in your brain to network and make connections the brain otherwise would not have been made.
An Australian researcher at Monash University has reviewed the evidence in studies reporting on benefits in daily life, such as sticking to task, achieving tasks, are they remembering things better.
The evidence for was quite good for programs which adapted to the person’s progress, which were quite demanding, and went on for quite a long time – on average five weeks.