"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Can brain-training smartphone apps and computer games really enable you to stay sharp?

These programs could also be fun, but there may be little evidence that they improve or maintain mental health.

“Improve your memory.” “Get a personalized brain training plan.” “Keep your mind sharp.”

These are the guarantees of an ever-increasing variety of smartphone apps and computer games being marketed as a way to guard and even improve your brain and memory. But is it true? Can electronic products really help your brain health?

“The companies that make these games would like you to think so,” says Dr. Andrew Budson, chief of cognitive and behavioral neurology on the VA Boston Healthcare System.

And it's theoretically possible that some do – in spite of everything, there are a whole bunch available on the market. But the issue is that there isn't a concrete proof of this.

Understanding research

Research on these apps has often not followed best research practices, akin to controlling for other aspects that will affect the outcomes. And unfortunately, when researchers use careful research methods, the advantages of using these apps and games often evaporate, Dr. Budson says. That said, there are some studies which have shown positive results, he says.

Researchers on the University of Iowa published one such study in 2019. Journals of Gerontology. Researchers asked a gaggle of adults to follow a 10-week computerized brain training program and compared them to a control group of people that played traditional computer games. The researchers found that at the top of the study period, those within the brain training group were faster at processing information and had higher working memory (a measure of how well they maintain information) than those within the brain training group. can recall and apply it to tasks). Play traditional computer games, Dr. Budson says.

But typically, tests for electronic programs seem flat, says Dr. Budson. 2020 for instance International Psychogeriatrics A study of individuals 80 years and older, similar in design to the University of Iowa study, found no improvement in pondering or memory in either the computerized cognitive training group or the control group.

In addition, the Federal Trade Commission has already moved to effective some app and computer game makers for making claims it deems unsubstantiated. In 2016, the regulatory agency fined several firms and ordered them to purge their marketing of misleading statements.

In addition to the shortage of research confirming the worth of electronic brain stimulation programs, there may be some additional evidence linking certain forms of screen-based activities to poor brain outcomes. For example, some studies have linked frequent use of social media to a better risk of memory problems later in life. A study published in 2021 Journal of General Psychology said that it could have to do with how scrolling through these sites affects your mood.

“Interestingly, some of the effects of social media seem to be linked to their tendency to increase negative emotions, which work against your efforts to maintain a positive outlook,” says Dr. Budson. Budson says.

Strategies for shielding the mind

Ultimately, Dr. Budson says that based on the knowledge on the market, it seems that computerized brain training programs may help people improve at the precise tasks they practice using each program, but These programs don't seem to assist them improve at other tasks. , unrelated tasks or optimize their cognitive performance.

That said, should you're using an app or brain training computer program and also you prefer it, keep doing it carefully. Dr. Budson says that pleasurable activities might be good for you.

“Think of it as a hobby, something you do for fun, rather than something important to your brain,” says Dr. Budson.

But don't overlook strategies which have already been shown to assist maintain mental health, with time dedicated to physical activity and exercise topping the list. Budson says there are at the least six more that needs to be prioritized.

1. Eat a healthy weight loss program. Adopting a Mediterranean-style weight loss program — high in fruits, vegetables, healthy fats, and lean meats, and low in processed and sugary foods — can profit your mental health.

2. Give up bad habits. Illicit drug use, heavy drinking, and never getting enough sleep at night impair cognition.

3. Make time to socialize. People with good brain aging often have one thing in common: they've strong social relationships. A study published in 2011 Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society It found that amongst greater than 1,000 older adults who were followed for five years, those that were most socially energetic had 70 percent less cognitive decline than their less social peers. But keep in mind that not all social experiences are useful. Negative or stressful relationships have been found to impair cognition.

4. Turn up the tunes. Dr. Budson says that listening to music or playing an instrument can profit your brain. When you take heed to music, it engages multiple areas of your brain, activating not only language but additionally the parts related to rhythm and memory. In addition, music has mood-altering abilities, helping to lift you out of an anxious mood and calm down you after a stressful day. “The AARP surveyed 3,000 adults ages 18 and older and found that music is associated with lower levels of self-reported anxiety and depression, very good or excellent mental health, better quality of life, happiness and Mental fitness, and the ability to learn new things,” says Dr. Budson. The combination of music, dance, and social interactions can bring particularly powerful brain advantages, he says.

5. Be careful. Taking day trip of your day to refocus and refocus on the current can have cognitive advantages, primarily since it reduces brain-damaging stress. It also can get you into the habit of being attentive to what you're doing – which might enable you to in quite a few ways, including remembering names, where you parked your automobile, or where you place your keys. Where did you permit it? Taking just a few minutes every day to practice mindfulness could make a difference. Learn how by signing up for an in-person or online class, or using a smartphone app or computer program.

6. Look on the brilliant side. Taking time to show your life around more positively may help your mental health, Dr. Budson says. A study published in 2012 Journals of Gerontology Positive thinkers were found to have healthier minds than their pessimistic peers. Data from the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging showed that folks who reported positive attitudes about aging experienced 30 percent less memory decline than those that had more negative views.

Photo: © grinvalds/Getty Images