Different Types of Brain Training
Brain fitness involves many types of brain training including reflection tests, memory tests, IQ tests, spatial intelligence, reflex actions and brain stretching and creativity. Combining these games into a planned workout schedule will stimulate all the major areas of your brain and keep your skills sharpened. And like physical exercise, the more you neglect a certain area the more it will show.
The different types of brain training can be grouped into six categories: Attention, Memory, Brain Speed, Intelligence, People Skills, and Navigation.
Cognitive therapy (CT) was founded by Dr. Aaron Beck. It is based on the idea that the way people perceive their experience influences their behaviours and emotions. The therapist teaches the patient cognitive and behavioural skills to modify his or her dysfunctional thinking and actions.
CT aims at improving specific traits, behaviours, or cognitive skills, such as planning and flexibility, which are executive functions, depression, obsessive-compulsive disorders, and phobias. It has been shown effective in many studies and contexts such as depression, high levels of anxiety, insomnia.
You may be wondering what meditation has to do with brain training. In fact, meditation has been shown to improve specific cognitive functions such as attention. As such it can be considered as a brain training technique.
A number of studies have compared people who practice meditation to people who do not. The problem with these studies is that people in both groups can be very different. Thus the benefits observed in the group practicing meditation could be due to other things.
Biofeedback hardware devices measure and graphically display various physiological variables such as skin conductivity and heart rate variability, so that users can learn to self-adjust. It has been used for decades in medicine. Recently, this technology has emerged in reasonably-priced applications for consumers who want to learn how to manage stress better.
- Choose a variety of activities that you enjoy
- A hobby such as painting, carpentry, metal work, sewing, craft or collecting
- A short course such as woodwork, gardening, computers, cooking, mechanics or yoga
- Reading different styles of books, newspapers or magazines
- Writing poetry, essays or keeping a diary
- Doing jigsaw, crossword, number or word puzzles
- Playing board games or cards
- Learning to dance, play an instrument or speak a new language
- Going to the theatre, movies, museum, gallery or a concert
- Cooking a new recipe or building a model
- Joining a club or community group or volunteering
- Play Sudoku
- Eat well
Here are five conditions that must be met for any kind of brain training, from meditation to technology-based programs, to translate into meaningful real world improvements:
- It must engage and exercise a core brain-based capacity or neural circuit identified to be relevant to real-life outcomes, such as executive attention, working memory, speed of processing and emotional regulation. Many supposed “brain training” games fail to provide any actual “brain training” because they were never really designed to target specific and relevant brain functions.
- It must target a performance bottleneck – otherwise it is an exercise in vanity similar to building the largest biceps in town while neglecting the rest of the body. A critical question to ask is: Which brain function do I need to optimize? With physical fitness, effective training begins with a target in mind: Is the goal to train abdominal muscles? Biceps? Cardio capacity? So it goes for brain fitness, where the question becomes: Is the goal to optimize driving-related cognitive skills? Concentration? Memory? Regulating stress and emotions? The choice of a technique or technology should be driven by your goal. For instance, if you need to train your executive functions but use a program designed to enhance speed of processing, you may well conclude that this program does not “work.” But this program may work for somebody whose bottleneck is speed of processing (as often happens in older adults).
- A minimum “dose” of 15 hours total per targeted brain function, performed over 8 weeks or less, is necessary for real improvement. Training only a few hours across a wide variety of brain functions, such as in the “BBC brain training” experiment, should not be expected to trigger real-world benefits, in the same way that going to the gym a couple times per month and doing an assortment of undirected exercises cannot be expected to result in increased muscle strength and physical fitness.
- Training must adapt to performance, require effortful attention, and increase in difficulty. This is a key advantage of computerized “brain training” over pen-and-paper-based activities. Think about the number of hours you have spent doing crossword or Sudoku puzzles, or mastering any new subject for that matter, in a way that was either too easy for you and became boring or way too difficult and became frustrating. Interactive training has the capacity to constantly monitor your level of performance and adapt accordingly.
- Continued practice is required for continued benefits. Just as you wouldn’t expect to derive lifelong benefits from running a few hours this month, and then not exercising ever again, you shouldn’t expect lifelong benefits from a one-time brain training activity.