Improving your concentration, memorization… such are the promises of many applications. While some scientists denounce a lack of proof of their effectiveness, others see a real interest in it. Studies are continuing.
After a certain age, many fear a decline in the brain. From where the temptation to throw oneself on the applications which propose “boost” your memory and cognitive abilities. Are these mini-games really effective? Scientists qualify.
What is brain coaching?
Smartphone in hand, one connects exercises of a few minutes which consist in locating letters, combinations of cubes, chains of marbles or logical sequences.
It is necessary find the solution as quickly as possible by making work his memory, and sometimes his creativity. Many of these applications start with a test meant to assess the cognitive skills to be improved.
As in a video game, the exercises make earn points and bonuses.
Are Brain Coaching Apps Really Useful?
“They can be interesting and useful if the person is involved and finds pleasure in them”, summarizes Dr. Julien Lagarde, a neurologist at Sainte-Anne hospital (Paris). These are the conditions for the brain to “progress”.
Even if this progress is difficult to measure, many users report a feeling of increased intellectual liveliness. Researchers are also exploring these effects on the brain and their consequences in real life. Professor George Rebok, the researcher at Johns-Hopkins University (Baltimore, United States), is one of them: “Some scientific works have highlighted an increased brain size and the number of connections between neuronsThe hippocampus, involved in memory and spatial orientation, was concerned. The researcher observed that seniors who had followed a brain training program were better able to manage daily tasks.
Other research has observed a improved memory in children with Cancer. 120 researchers have come together to defend this potential of brain training.
Less studied, the pleasure provided by these games is also a significant benefit.
What are the limitations of brain training apps?
“One game is not enough to make you smarter, to prevent Alzheimer’s disease, or even to ‘rejuvenate’ the brain, as some applications claim,” says Dr Lagarde.
While the feeling of improvement is real in some people, it is difficult to separate the benefits of brain training from all the other activities that demand the brain on a daily basis. In addition, the workouts studied by the researchers are, in general, not those of the apps.
Thesis: are all coaching exercises the same?
We don’t know. The danger lies in practicing an exercise that is too focused, whose skills will not be transposable in real life. While concentration is a transversal capacity, this is not the case with memory, in particular, which is more specific.
These games only work a tiny part of our brain. They can do the brain good, but they only increase brain plasticity in areas that support a specific skill. Learning to memorize a list, for example, doesn’t make it easier to find your words in a conversation!
The important thing: vary your training!
In reality, the brain needs novelty and diversity so that its capacities are really strengthened. In everyday life, making a cooking recipe or an embroidery work requires, for example, planning, counting, forecasting, monitoring … Cognitive processes are nestled everywhere, in brain training exercises, but also in “household” tasks.
The practice of brain training must therefore be as varied as possible (vary the games and levels of difficulty), and do not take the place of real activities which we know the benefits for the brain, such as sports, friends or learning a new skill.
What are the four best brain coaching apps? Why ?
Geist (on the App store)
7-day trial, then € 59.99 per year, or € 9.99 per month
What she offers: after passing the evaluation test, you can access a program that can be personalized according to your age and the skills you want to improve.
Most : a part is reserved for meditation and programs to improve one’s sleep.
The least: some meditations are only available in English.
Neuronation (available on the App store and Google Play)
The first exercises are free. The Premium version is € 41.33 for 3 months or € 83.99 per year
What she offers: once passed a test, you have access to 29 exercises on 250 levels in a pretty and clear interface. The app also explains the cognitive goal it is supposed to help achieve.
Most : it’s one of the top-rated and most studied apps. It takes into account the fact of being color blind or having an arithmetic deficiency.
The least: you have to buy the premium version to track its progress, and this one is rather expensive.
Peak (on the App store and Google Play)
The first exercises are free, then € 34.99 per year
What she offers: forty games through several levels which are unlocked as you progress. Player performance is evaluated and turned into graphics.
Most: some modules have been developed in partnership with the University of Cambridge. The presentation, very focused on progress, is motivating and pushes to surpass oneself.
The least: the free version has lots of ads that you have to watch to unlock exercises.
Braint out (on the App Store and Google Play)
The application is free, but some features remain chargeable.
What she offers: we navigate in the middle of men, courses, and fruits that we imagine drawn by children. Successful games allow you to progress through the levels.
Most : its playful side! We play and relax while the proposed exercises often require reflection and creativity.
The least: the interface is not always clear.