Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Brain training works, but just for the practiced task, say researchers

Date:
January 2, 2014
Source:
University of Oregon
Summary:
Search for "brain training" on the Web. You'll find online exercises, games, software, even apps, all designed to prepare your brain to do better on any number of tasks. Do they work? Some psychologists say, yes, but "there's a catch."

Search for "brain training" on the Web. You'll find online exercises, games, software, even apps, all designed to prepare your brain to do better on any number of tasks. Do they work? University of Oregon psychologists say, yes, but "there's a catch."

Related Articles


The catch, according to Elliot T. Berkman, a professor in the Department of Psychology and lead author on a study published in the Jan. 1 issue of the Journal of Neuroscience, is that training for a particular task does heighten performance, but that advantage doesn't necessarily carry over to a new challenge.

The training provided in the study caused a proactive shift in inhibitory control. However, it is not clear if the improvement attained extends to other kinds of executive function such as working memory, because the team's sole focus was on inhibitory control, said Berkman, who directs the psychology department's Social and Affective Neuroscience Lab.

"With training, the brain activity became linked to specific cues that predicted when inhibitory control might be needed," he said. "This result is important because it explains how brain training improves performance on a given task -- and also why the performance boost doesn't generalize beyond that task."

Sixty participants (27 male, 33 females and ranging from 18 to 30 years old) took part in a three-phase study. Change in their brain activity was monitored with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

Half of the subjects were in the experimental group that was trained with a task that models inhibitory control -- one kind of self-control -- as a race between a "go" process and a "stop" process. A faster stop process indicates more efficient inhibitory control.

In each of a series of trials, participants were given a "go" signal -- an arrow pointing left or right. Subjects pressed a key corresponding to the direction of the arrow as quickly as possible, launching the go process. However, on 25 percent of the trials, a beep sounded after the arrow appeared, signaling participants to withhold their button press, launching the stop process.

Participants practiced either the stop-signal task or a control task that didn't affect inhibitory control every other day for three weeks. Performance improved more in the training group than in the control group.

Neural activity was monitored using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which captures changes in blood oxygen levels, during a stop-signal task. MRI work was done in the UO's Robert and Beverly Lewis Center for Neuroimaging. Activity in the inferior frontal gyrus and anterior cingulate cortex -- brain regions that regulate inhibitory control -- decreased during inhibitory control but increased immediately before it in the training group more than in the control group.

The fMRI results identified three regions of the brain of the trained subjects that showed changes during the task, prompting the researchers to theorize that emotional regulation may have been improved by reducing distress and frustration during the trials. Overall, the size of the training effect is small. A challenge for future research, they concluded, will be to identify protocols that might generate greater positive and lasting effects."Researchers at the University of Oregon are using tools and technologies to shed new light on important mechanisms of cognitive functioning such as executive control," said Kimberly Andrews Espy, vice president for research and innovation and dean of the UO Graduate School. "This revealing study on brain training by Dr. Berkman and his team furthers our understanding of inhibitory control and may lead to the design of better prevention tools to promote mental health."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Oregon. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. E. T. Berkman, L. E. Kahn, J. S. Merchant. Training-Induced Changes in Inhibitory Control Network Activity. Journal of Neuroscience, 2013; 34 (1): 149 DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.3564-13.2014

Cite This Page:

University of Oregon. "Brain training works, but just for the practiced task, say researchers." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 January 2014. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140102112324.htm>.
University of Oregon. (2014, January 2). Brain training works, but just for the practiced task, say researchers. ScienceDaily. Retrieved December 18, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140102112324.htm
University of Oregon. "Brain training works, but just for the practiced task, say researchers." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/01/140102112324.htm (accessed December 18, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Yoga Could Be As Beneficial For The Heart As Walking, Biking

Newsy (Dec. 17, 2014) Yoga can help your weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and heart just as much as biking and walking does, a new study suggests. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

1st Responders Trained for Autism Sensitivity

AP (Dec. 16, 2014) More departments are ordering their first responders to sit in on training sessions that focus on how to more effectively interact with those with autism spectrum disorder (Dec. 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Guys Are Idiots, According To Sarcastic Study

Newsy (Dec. 12, 2014) A study out of Britain suggest men are more idiotic than women based on the rate of accidental deaths and other factors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Believing in Father Christmas Good for Children's Imaginations

Believing in Father Christmas Good for Children's Imaginations

AFP (Dec. 12, 2014) As the countdown to Christmas gets underway, so too does the Father Christmas conspiracy. But psychologists say that telling our children about Santa, flying reindeer and elves is good for their imaginations. Duration: 01:57 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Health & Medicine

Mind & Brain

Living & Well

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins