Study: Nintendo brain games don't make the grade

Brain Academy screenshot

Can the mind-bending activities in games like Big Brain Academy make you smarter? The debate continues.
(Credit: Nintendo)

Nintendo's brain games may not help put your kid on the Nobel Prize track after all, according to one professor who put the titles to the test.

Alain Lieury, a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Rennes in Brittany, France, surveyed a group of 10-year-olds and concluded that homework, reading or playing Scrabble or sudoku produced benefits that matched or beat the supposed memory-enhancing properties of such titles as Big Brain Academy, Brain Training, and Brain Age.

The latter game contains several types of puzzle challenges designed to stimulate and keep the gray matter "young" and sharp.

"The Nintendo DS is a technological jewel. As a game it's fine," the Times Online quotes Lieury as saying. "But it is charlatanism to claim that it is a scientific test."

Lieury, a memory specialist, split 67 10-year-olds into four groups, according to the Times Online. The first two took part in a seven-week memory course on a Nintendo DS game console, the third did puzzles with pencils and paper and the fourth went to school as usual.

Before and after the course, the kids were given tasks including logic tests, memorising words on a map, doing sums and interpreting symbols. Researchers found that children using the Nintendo DS system didn't show any significant improvement in memory tests. They did do 19 percent better in math, but so did the pencil-and-paper group, while the fourth group did 18 percent better.

"If it doesn't work on children, it won't work on adults," Lieury said.

Of course, some will surely argue that brain games — even if their long-term benefits aren't scientifically proven — beat out first-person shooters or watching MTV when it comes to a beneficial use of time. And in the end, Lieury's findings pretty much back reviews by CNET, at least of Brain Age: "Does Brain Age actually make you smarter? We have no idea, but it's still an interesting puzzle game available at a budget price."

Have you or your kids played any of Nintendo's brain games? If so, did you spot any cognitive improvements? Leave your comments below!



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charlie posted a comment   

i'd agree with demon rob; the study should be done to examine the effects of the game as they're marketed. i don't think anyone claimed brain age would make kids smarter.

 

Demon Rob posted a comment   

'keep the gray matter "young" and sharp.' i.e. help older brains, not extend young brains. Now he needs to test older users in the same way.

 

blaah posted a comment   
New Zealand

i played (or tried to play) one of the brain games once, got past the menu, but struggled as the speech recognition software couldn't recognise my voice. nor my sister's for that sake. kids must be smart enough these days to actually get the thing working




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