With so many products on the market that claim to improve your child’s brain, how can you know which to choose? Know fact from fiction when it comes to brain training for children.
When a product claims to train your child’s brain, look for the 2 key features in their clinical trials:
- Transfer effects
- Control group
1. Transfer effects means asking this question: does the product improve anything other than getting better at the game itself? Of course, you would expect that practicing hard at one thing will naturally make you better at it. This is known as a practice effect—doing something enough times makes you good. But the real question, is can a brain training program transfer to real world activities; in other words, can you get better at something other than the training game itself? That is the first question you need to ask yourself when you look at a brain training product.
2. Is there a control group? A control group offers a comparison to make sure that the brain training program is not just working because the child is doing something different. Some studies just use a control group who don’t do anything. While this is a good start, an ideal control group is a group of people who are doing something different from the brain training program (such as reading or playing a different computer game).
In my own research, I looked at the transfer effects of brain training—can training a child’s brain lead to better scores in learning? Students with learning difficulties were randomly assigned to one of two groups. Half of the students trained with Jungle Memory (Training group), while the other half received extra tutoring (Control group).
I measured their IQ, working memory, and learning scores before they started training. At the start of the trials, both groups performed similarly on all of these cognitive tests. This is important because it means that any improvements the student makes after training is the result of the training, and not because they started at a different level.
After training, the results were dramatic. The Control group did not perform any better. In contrast, the Training group using Jungle Memory made great improvements in IQ, working memory, and most importantly, their learning. The increase in their grades was the equivalent of a C to a B, and a B to an A in just 8 weeks!
I also worked with Dyslexia Scotland to find out if Jungle Memory could improve school performance in students with reading difficulties.
Students were allocated into one of three groups: Nonactive Control, Active Control, where they trained once a week; Training Group, where they trained 4x a week.
All three groups were given tests of working memory, IQ, and language before training; and re-tested on the same measures after training, as well as eight months later.
The High Training group (those who trained 4x a week) showed great improvements in IQ and working memory, and in their language as well.
The most exciting thing is that all these improvements were maintained at the 8-month follow-up.