Wednesday, January 9, 2013

The results: Brain training games don't make us smarter

    Lab UK's groundbreaking scientific study, published in leading science journal Nature, has found no evidence that playing brain training games can meaningfully boost your 'brain power'.

  The Brain Test Britain experiment, launched on Lab UK in September  2009, was designed to find out if playing brain training games really does have benefits that transfer to other brain skills, like memory, planning or problem-solving.
    We asked the public to help us by brain training three times a week for a minimum of six weeks - and you responded in your thousands.
    Of the 67,000 people who signed up to take part in Brain Test Britain, more than 13,000 completed the initial six-week brain training period, making this by far the largest ever study of computer-based brain training.

    The scientists who designed the experiment - Dr Adrian Owen of the Medical Research Council, University of Cambridge, and Professor Clive Ballard, director of research for the Alzheimer’s Society – have now completed their analysis of the data.

What did we learn?

    The results are truly amazing. The Brain Test Britain study found no evidence that the benefits of playing brain training games transfer to other brain skills.Dr Adrian Owen said: "The result is crystal clear. Brain training is only as good as spending six weeks using the internet. There is no meaningful difference."

This will no doubt come as a surprise to the millions of people worldwide who do some form of brain training every day in the belief that regularly ‘exercising’ your brain with special tests and puzzles makes you better at everyday thinking tasks.

   The Brain Test Britain experiment was inspired by research, published in 2009, suggesting the scientific evidence for brain training was lacking. It found that most of the studies used to support the claims made by commercially available brain trainers were not carried out to accepted scientific standards.By contrast, the Brain Test Britain experiment was a full clinical trial - a type of scientific study used to evaluate the effectiveness of ideas that have a medical application. 

   This allowed our scientists to investigate brain training as a means of treating or preventing degenerative disorders of the brain, such as dementia.The results of Lab UK's Brain Test Britain experiment have now been published in Nature, one of the world's leading science journals. (To find out more about publication and peer review, read our article:What is peer review?)

So what are the benefits of brain training?

     Brain Test Britain found that people who play brain training games do get better at those specific brain training games. But this really only proves the old adage of ‘practice makes perfect’. There is no evidence that this transfers to the brain skills measured by our benchmarking tests.     

     The Brain Test Britain experiment is now closed. This includes the longer 12 month study for participants aged 60 and over. The results for this part of the experiment are being analysed now, and will be published on the BBC Lab UK site when the findings are ready.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

What happens in the brain of a sexual sadist?

La Domaine light painting 1
La Domaine light painting 1 (Photo credit: snakegirl productions)

 Sexual sadism is a psychiatric illness that makes your sexual pleasure only get affected when inflicting damage, suffering or humiliation of others. Althoughpsychology and       Forensic Medicine were able to characterize well this pathology,little is known about the neurocognitive circuits involved in it.
 However, scientists from New Mexico and the U.S. publishes data from one of the first studies that have evaluated a group affected with imaging.

 Carla Harenski, Department of Psychology and Neuroscience, University of New Mexico in Albuquerque, is the lead author. His essay shows that sadistic people,compared with those who are not, have a greater activation of brain parts when they see images that reflect suffering.
        "To understand the neural mechanisms that are behind the scenes of painobservation by sadistic people and those not, the participants were evaluated with brain imaging with fMRI while 50 images observed in which inflicting intentionalharm to others (for example, a person with a door hitting the hand of another). alsorated the 'pain intensity' of each one of them. it also showed them 25 themed images without scenes of suffering " according to the researchers listed in the latest Archives of General Psychiatry.
 The aim was to test the involvement of certain frontotemporal areas of the brain,the insula and anterior. These regions are associated with 'emotional pain'processing of emotions when you see someone suffer. We also evaluated whetherthe scenes of suffering, 'put up' other brain regions (amygdala and hypothalamus)related to sexual desire. 

The study

 The study was conducted with 15 sex offenders of which eight were suffering fromsexual sadism and the rest, no. Participants were recruited from a treatment center in Mauston (Wisconsin, USA). All had committed at least two violent sex offenses.
  The data reveal that the "sexual sadists showed, unlike those who were not,greater amygdala activation in response to images of pain compared with the scenes that did not represent suffering," the researchers determined that insist that those affected by the disorder classified the images as high-intensity compared with the unaffected and showed a positive association between pain intensity and increased activity of the insula, which is not recorded in non-sadistic "


       The data are consistent with previous research showing an increase in sexual desire during observation of pain, which shows the neural mechanisms underlying pathology.

    Although scientists acknowledge some limitations in their work, they argue that "the data do not indicate the existence of brain abnormalities (structural) in brain regions mentioned, but a greater activation of certain areas does not occur in other populations. 
   Addition the results may reflect a typical brain mechanisms for processing of pain, leading to sadism or, conversely, the disease could lead to the involvement of these areas. All these questions. 
    All these questions could getanswered in the more development work involving imaging techniques and carried out long term monitoring. "


Thursday, February 23, 2012

A dog for for pregnant women

Belly of a woman in her 34th week of pregnancy.
Image via Wikipedia

  • Having pet helps to implement the recommendations of daily exercise

    Pregnant women who have dog exercise more. According to a study published in the journal PLoS One ', meet the 30 minutes recommended by 50% more than women who do not have pets. Given the benefits of this practice on health, the researcherspropose to include this kind of tour company as a strategy to improve the habits of pregnant women.

    As the paper's authors argue, from the University of Liverpool (United Kingdom),numerous studies show that "obesity or a significant increase in weight duringpregnancy can affect both mother and baby. For example, it could cause difficulties in birth or have implications for the future development of child obesity. "

    According to Jackie Calleja, University Hospital gynecologist Chiron Madrid, we know that "sedentary activity with an unbalanced diet and overweight are risk factorsfor developing diseases that appear in the second and third trimester of pregnancy, such as preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, fatigue ... ".

     For these reasons, experts underline the British study, doctors are constantly monitoring the weight and daily exercise are advised. The Spanish gynecologistgives some clues: "It is exercise, not sport, aerobic 30 to 40 minutes three or four days a week. Yoga, pilates, jogging, swimming for pregnant women, biking, walking.What matters is that the pregnant is active and moving at a normal rate, a medium intensity. for example, in half an hour walk a mile. "

     Normally, pregnant women choose to walk, said Carri Westgarth, one of the authors of the research. "Although we had shown that having a dog increases physical activity in adults in general, this is the first study to assess this relationship in pregnant women," he adds.

    And the answer is yes. After analyzing more than 11,000 pregnant women, "observed to have one or more dogs helps them achieve the recommended 150 minutes ofexercise a week." The results show that having a pet is a motivation and "undertakes to maintain daily physical activity" because it involves a commitment to animal care.However, the researchers say, can not be said that the company of a dog isassociated with less weight during pregnancy. What I can say is that it helps promote the exercise at this stage, so it would "consider how it can be included as health strategy and analyze what are the most appropriate," among other factors.