'Brain Training' Boosts Memory, but not IQ

Thursday, 10 Oct 2013 03:32 PM

By Nick Tate

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"Brain training" strategies — including games, apps, and Websites — can boost your memory, but don't do much to increase your IQ. That's the conclusion of new research published in the journal appear Psychological Science that evaluated the impact of such training on the ability to reason and solve problems.

"It is hard to spend any time on the web and not see an ad for a website that promises to train your brain, fix your attention, and increase your IQ," said psychological scientist and lead researcher Randall Engle of Georgia Institute of Technology. "These claims are particularly attractive to parents of children who are struggling in school."
 
But Engle noted the claims are based on beliefs that there is a correlation between working memory capacity and general intelligence. Working memory is the ability to keep information in mind while general intelligence is the ability to infer relationships, do complex reasoning, and solve novel problems.

Special: How One Deck of Cards Has Shown to Improve Memory.
 
But Engle said "this assumes that the two constructs are the same thing, or that [working memory] is the basis for fluid intelligence" — something the new Georgia Tech research found to be untrue.
 
For the study, Engle and colleagues had 55 undergraduate students complete 20 days of brain training on certain cognitive tasks. The researchers administered tests before and after training to gauge improvement and transfer of learning, including a variety of memory and intelligence measures.
 
The results found the training helped students perform better on memory tasks, but none demonstrated any benefit on measures of fluid intelligence.
 
Engle said just because memory and intelligence are correlated doesn't mean that they are the same.
 
"Height and weight in human beings are also strongly correlated but few reasonable people would assume that height and weight are the same variable," explained Engle. "If they were, gaining weight would make you taller and losing weight would make you shorter — those of us who gain and lose weight periodically can attest to the fact that that is not true."

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