One of the more important studies about how cognitive exercises and training pays off in terms of the ability to manage everyday tasks and basic reasoning was a 2006 study on “Long-term Effects of Cognitive Training on Everyday Functional Outcomes in Older Adults.” The study indicated that ten sessions of cognitive exercises designed to exercise and improve reasoning skills, memory, and mental processing speed appeared to prevent cognitive decline in middle-aged and elderly people. What’s more, the sessions’ benefits carried over into real life activities; older adults who participated in the first ten sessions of exercises followed by subsequent sessions were three times as fast in terms of ordinary tasks, like responding to a road sign, using a phone book to look up a number, or checking the ingredients on a printed medicine label, as those who only participated in the initial sessions.
But what really caught my eye was this article from the Washington Post, which makes the following observation about the study results:
Americans spend billions of dollars each year on their physical well-being, but there are no comparable efforts to keep people mentally agile and strong.
It seems only logical to exercise both the brain and the body, since the two are inter-dependent.
The article quotes Pennsylvania State University professor of human development Sherry L. Willis, primary author of the study, on the important of brain fitness training and cognitive exercises as preventive therapy:
“It’s just like physical exercise—when we are approaching the new year we will buy a pass for the gym and go fervently in January and then slack off,” Willis said. “Mental exercise is the same way. It has to be consistent, and it has to be challenging. Just like you have to keep increasing the weights at the gym to make it challenging, you have to do the same with mental activity.”
One of the things that first impressed me about Dakim’s software is that the games constantly “level” to the players’ abilities. As players improve (or decline), the games adjust in terms of difficulty; if a player is having a harder time, the games get a little bit less challenging. That’s pretty impressive; but where Dakim really stands out is that a player can be at a higher level at, for instance, language games, but perhaps a slightly lower level in short term memory, or calculation. Player’s are not just stuck at a particular level, either; the software adjusts to individual players, not to an arbitrary magic number. It’s a customized experience, every session.
Plus, Dakim’s content department is creating new games and exercises all the time, so that more content is always available; which means players don’t get bored. It’s important that the sessions are stimulating and challenging; they shouldn’t be something you have to do. Swimming laps every day in the pool is certainly good for you, but free swimming off the coast of Maui is a lot more fun and interesting, and you’re a lot more likely to swim every day. Dakim’s ocean of content is a lot more interesting than doing the same sort of cross word every morning; that variety also actually means you exercise skills you might not otherwise.