Evaluating Brain Fitness Programs - Which Should I Choose?The brain fitness market has expanded rapidly in recent years, and there is now a large selection of computer and on-line brain training exercises to choose from. At one end of the spectrum are games that are purely for entertainment purposes. At the other end are exercises that have been scientifically validated in clinical trials. Impressive claims are often made by the companies offering these products and it can be difficult to know which how to evaluate them.

The folks at SharpBrains believe they can help. SharpBrains is an independent market research company that continuously monitors the brain fitness market. They have provided a very helpful 10 item checklist to help consumers choose a product. Read on to find out how Posit Science measures up.

Are there scientists, ideally neuropsychologists, and a scientific advisory board behind the program? Posit Science was co-founded by Dr. Michael Merzenich, a world-renowned neuroscientist and pioneer in the field of neuroplasticity. He has been elected to both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine, a rare feat. We have a global Scientific Advisory Board and group of clinical collaborators- with over 50 members. These include some of the world’s leading neuroscientists and psychologists.

Are there published, peer-reviewed scientific papers in PubMed written by those scientists? How many? The scientists on the Scientific Advisory Board have published hundreds of papers on various topics. There are currently over 60 publications that directly examine the technologies incorporated in Posit Science’s products. You can find more information on our publications here.

What are the specific benefits claimed for using this program? What specific cognitive skill is the program training? As SharpBrains notes, ‘some training programs present the benefits in such a nebulous way that it is impossible to tell if they will have any results or not.’ The Posit programs clearly state the targeted brain functions and real world benefits.

In 2012, Posit Science launched BrainHQ—an online brain training system that includes all the exercises in The Brain Fitness Program and InSight. We encourage everyone who is interested in purchasing the Brain Fitness Program or InSight to choose a BrainHQ subscription instead. Here are the benefits:

  • BrainHQ is online, so you can train on any computer, whether it’s a Mac or a PC (and on your iPad, too).
  • At $8-14 per month, BrainHQ is far more affordable than the our previous programs.
  • BrainHQ includes all 11 of the clinically proven exercises in both programs—plus many, many more. The benefits of training are even better!
  • While both programs zero in on auditory and visual processing, BrainHQ gives you the opportunity to exercise these and many other brain functions (such as complex thinking, social cognition, and attentional focus).
  • BrainHQ has a flexible schedule to fit any lifestyle—whether you have just a few minutes available at a time or prefer longer, more intense training sessions.
  • BrainHQ allows you to train with friends and join special brain training challenges.

Does the program tell me what part of my brain or which cognitive skill I am exercising, and is there an independent assessment to measure my progress? SharpBrains clarifies that the improvement experienced in the training must transfer to real life and assessments distinct from the training must be used to evaluate the transfer. We at Posit whole-heartedly agree. There is little point is spending hours training if the benefits don’t transfer to daily functions. All of our products have important real world benefits that have been evaluated using established independent assessments in clinical trials. For example, the IMPACT study showed that participants improved in the exercise tasks AND that they experieced general improvements in memory and processing speed overall.

Is it a structured program with guidance on how many hours per week and days per week to use it? Yes. The Brain Fitness Program has 40 one hour sessions. InSight has 40 minutes sessions with over 40 hours of content. DriveSharp has 20 minute sessions with over 10 hours of content. In all cases we recommend 3 to 5 sessions per week although this can be adjusted to fit into individual schedules.

Do the exercises vary and teach me something new? The programs were developed using principles of brain plasticity. We know from scientific research that the user needs to be challenged with a range of novel stimuli to produce changes in brain processing. This is an important component of all our exercises.

Does the program challenge and motivate me, or does it feel like it would become easy once I learned it? We know that brain changes are optimized when the exercise is challenging but not too difficult. Posit Science uses mathematical methods to constantly adjust the level of difficulty to match the user’s current ability level.

Does the program fit my personal goals? Our three products have different training objectives which are clearly specified. For example, the Brain Fitness Program’s main goal is to improve memory. DriveSharp improves driving safety. InSight, which includes the exercises in DriveSharp, also improves other important visual functions including processing speed and visual memory.

Does the program fit my lifestyle? Each product has a recommended schedule; however we realize that this may not fit into may user’s lifestyle. Posit program schedules are flexible and can be adjusted to suit each user.

Am I ready and willing to do the program, or would it be too stressful? Of course, only you can answer that question for yourself. Posit programs have been developed so that almost anyone can use them, including people who have little or no computer experience. Each exercise has a tutorial clearly explaining the tasks. The difficulty level is constantly adjusted to match each user’s current ability level so that the exercises are never too difficult. Game elements are added to the exercises to make them more rewarding and enjoyable. We also have a helpful customer delight team ready to help with any issues, problems, or questions – in our support forum or on the phone.

That wraps up the responses to the checklist. If you are considering other brain products, why not see how they compare to Posit programs using this checklist?