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Oops! Brain training doesn't help aging brains

Vladimir Cole

In a blow to Nintendo's hopes that their Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day title for the Nintendo DS would sell bajillions of copies to aging boomers who want to halt the rate at which their brains slip into senility, the Wall Street Journal's Science Journal debunks the idea that brain training of any sort can help slow the rate of mental decline.

The Journal quotes a recent study by University of Virginia’s Timothy Salthouse that found "little scientific evidence that engagement in mentally stimulating activities alters the rate of mental aging" calling the belief "more of an optimistic hope than an empirical reality."

Furthermore, "Even in the most mentally engaged elderly -- chess experts, professors, doctors -- mental function declines as steeply as in people to whom mental exercise means choosing which TV show to watch," Sharon Begley -- the author of the piece -- writes.

The news isn't all bad, though. Even though rigorous training fails to halt the rate of decline of our wetware, trained brains do perform trained tasks better, according to the Journal. If, for instance, you were to regularly practice math, you'd be faster with numbers than those who haven't been practicing.

Later this week, Begley will examine which types of training provides boosts brains best. We'll be sure to follow up then.

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