Whether a big exam is looming ahead or you need to improve your memory to keep abreast of a large body of information, brain training is a unique way to maximise your chances of success.
Brain training involves the use of games or activities targeted at exercising a brain-based capacity which is useful to real-life situations and outcomes. Different activities are used to target key neural circuits responsible for such areas as the memory, attention and speed in processing information.
What does the evidence say?
A recent study published in Psychological Science indicates that although brain training may not increase intelligence as a whole, it definitely does augment one’s ability to retain information.
Another study, the largest ever on brain training (published in January 2014), revealed that a short course of brain exercises helped older adults retain improvements in reasoning skills and processing speed for 10 years after the culmination of the course. Gains in memory retention, meanwhile, began to drop off after five years, which is still a significant amount of time to display the positive effects of cognitive training.
This is good news for students and good news for the population as a whole, since enabling minds to remain sharp even during old age has immensely beneficial consequences for the healthcare system but also for the elderly themselves, who are able to enjoy a significantly better quality of life.
What does Brain Training involve?
To see how much fun and enlightening brain training can be, log onto the site of popular providers, Lumosity, for a free taster of what it’s all about. This company offers a series of online games and apps that target three main areas: speed, memory and attention.
The site allows you to ‘test’ their programme out, after asking a series of questions to determine which areas you need help with. For instance, you may be asked whether your main goals are to improve your memory, pay attention or multi-task. Based on your own desires, the programme will provide a quick, three-part test.
The games are fun and challenging they are likewise humbling for those who fancy themselves as quick thinkers. One game might focus on ‘speed’; this game involves showing you a quick series of shapes and asking you to hit the right or left arrow to indicate whether or not the shape you are viewing is the same as the one you have just seen.
The idea is to answer correctly, and to do so quickly. Another game, focusing on ‘memory’, presents a series of patterns you have to recall precisely. Still another part of the test may focus on your ability at paying attention: across the screen, a bird and a number flash quickly. The aim is to click the mouse on the exact spot the bird was located and to remember the number that was flashed (on another part of the screen) soon after.
After this initial ‘test’, you are given a score, which will usually leave much room for improvement. In order to avail of the personalised programme created for you, you have to pay a minimum of one month’s fee. The games are truly so much fun that just thinking that they are also working on your brain fitness, makes them quite irresistible. They reveal an undeniable truth: the most effective ways of learning are usually those which are also the most engaging.
If you would like to try out some free brain training games first, try websites like Brainmetrix.com , which tests everything from your reflexes to your spatial intelligence and creativity.
What to look out for when purchasing a Brain Training app/programme:
- Personalisation: We all have different goals and weak points that need work. Therefore, a ‘one size fits all’ mentality is not appropriate when it comes to brain training.
- Targeted training: Brain training is not just any game or activity which activates brain functioning, it involves activities which target specific abilities/neural circuits.
- Duration: Each targeted brain function should be stimulated for 15-20 hours over maximum period of approximately two months. This is why purchasing good programme after doing your research into different companies, is wise. Some of the best programmes will set you back around £4.99 a month, which isn’t too great an investment considering the advantages offered.
- Graded difficulty: The games/activities should get harder as you progress, to challenge you to a sufficient degree that improvement is made.
To sharpen your memory for upcoming exams, there are many strategies you can adopt which will complement your brain training programme. These include:
- Using Learning Maps: Recall large amounts of information more effectively by using visual maps. According to the creator of the ‘Thinking Maps’ method, Dr. David Hyerle, there are eight different types of learning maps: the circle, bubble, double bubble, tree, brace, flow, multi-flow and bridge map.
Each map is used for different tasks. The Tree Map is particularly useful for organising large amounts of information. Create a tree map by dividing one subject into different main and sub-headings. Having all the information written in a condensed form on one piece of paper will help you see how each part of the subject relates to the whole, and will enable you to remember details more efficiently.
- Break up the information into chunks: Memorise smaller quantities of information on a daily basis, rather than leaving an inordinate amount of work for the week or day before the exam.
- Go mnemonic: Use imagery, rhymes, songs or acronyms to recall long lists of information.
- Discover your own personal way of learning: Some students find that reading notes out in a loud voice increasing their ability to retain information; others prefer to review highlighted information various times. It is crucial to take the time to discover what works best for you and to stick to it relentlessly.
- Relate it, retain it: Studies have shown that memory increases when we make associations between new and existing information. This is why investing time in mapping is so important: it highlights how the parts of a subject relate to its whole.
We hope that you have found this blog post interesting. If you would like to share your brain training tips, please feel free to add a comment.