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Nintendo's Brain Age doesn't work, researcher says

By Andrew Heining / January 26, 2009



A French researcher has disputed claims that Brain Age, a program for the handheld Nintendo DS video game system, can improve memory and mental acuity.

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According to the Times of London, Alain Lieury, a professor of cognitive psychology at the University of Rennes, has found that the use of "edutainment" titles made little difference in tests. His research tested 67 10-year-olds.

“That's the age where you have the best chance of improvement,” Professor Lieury says. “If it doesn't work on children, it won't work on adults.” The children were split into four groups. The first two did a seven-week memory course on a Nintendo DS, the third did puzzles with pencils and paper, and the fourth just went to school as normal.

Researchers found that the two groups using the game system showed little significant improvement in memory tests. They did 19 percent better in math – but so did the pencil-and-paper group, followed by the "go to school as normal" group, with an 18 percent increase.

The finding seems to contradict a similar study from Scotland conducted on schoolkids last year. It found that use of the game increased math scores and boosted students' standardized test performance – by as much as 50 percent.

The wildly popular game uses fast-paced simple math problems, word puzzles, currency conversion exercises, and memory tests to help users lower their "brain age."

Dr. Ryuta Kawashima, the scientist on whose work the game is based, (and who has an in-game presence) has refused to pocket royalties for the game, and limits his own children's video game playing time to one hour a week.

Professor Lieury's recommendation for staying sharp: read, help children with homework, play sudoku (which is included in Brain Age 2), and watch documentaries instead of soap operas.

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