We call them smart phones because they can do just about anything. But can they actually make you smarter? That's a question some researchers recently set out to find the answer to. And what they discovered may surprise you.
The researchers looked at 53 men and women between the ages of 50-68. All of them were complaining of memory problems. The researchers divided them into three groups. One group started using a smart-phone-based application called SMART (Smartphone-based brain Anti-aging and memory Reinforcement Training). Another group used a smart-phone application called Fit Brains®. And the third group didn't use the apps. The men and women used the programs for 15-20 minutes per day, five days per week for eight weeks.
Before the study began, and at the end of the eight weeks, the researchers tested their attention, memory, working memory, and response inhibition. If you don't know what response inhibition is, don't feel all that bad. Neither did I until I looked it up. Response inhibition refers to the ability to have flexible and goal-directed behavior in an ever-changing environment. In addition to the tests, the researchers also asked the men and women if they thought that their memory had improved. Here's what happened.
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Total working memory and auditory-verbal working memory "increased significantly in the smart phone groups, but not in the control groups. However, the only group that said that they thought the programs had improved their memory was the Fit Brains® group." This latter finding is interesting, because it means that even when your memory has significantly improved, you might not notice the improvement. This is probably because a lot of the memory difficulties we have are temporary and have to do with things like our emotional state, blood sugar level, and overall fitness.
You can find these programs in your app store. Give them a try and let me know how they work for you.
Yours for better health,
Frank Shallenberger, MD
Oh SJ, Seo S, et al. Effects of smartphone-based memory training for older adults with subjective memory complaints: a randomized controlled trial. Aging Ment Health. 2017 Jan 10:1-9.