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Monday, November 16, 2009

these newfangled brain games

The quest to stop the brain drain - The Boston Globe
Snyder said, “I really worry these companies are taking advantage of the average consumer’s concerns about their own health.’’

It wouldn’t be the first time products boasting brain benefits surged in popularity before research raised questions about the claims. The makers of “Baby Einstein’’ in September announced refunds after studies found that the popular videos didn’t actually produce baby geniuses. The product was hyped for more than a decade for its perceived ability to improve infants’ vocabulary.

Now, a growing chorus of researchers is calling for more and better studies of the brain games marketed for people heading toward the other end of the age curve.

“Many of the products may not be ready for prime time, but the science is still developing,’’ said Joe Coughlin, director of the MIT AgeLab, a center that designs and develops new products for adults over 45.

Coughlin believes some carefully designed brain games may be useful in keeping specific skills sharp. Right now, he’s evaluating the effectiveness of a computer software product that is marketed to baby boomers to help them sharpen driving skills by improving focus, reaction time, and memory. While Coughlin is optimistic that some brain games may be proven effective, he is less convinced that Americans will have the fortitude to stick with them