Living with M.S.

"Living with M.S. is sort of like training for a long race. The harder you try, and the longer you keep at it, the stronger you become.
Eventually, looking back, you may be amazed at the power you possessed, even when you had no idea it was within your reach." (Linda Ann Nickerson)


Does brain training spell brain gain or brain drain?

Multiple sclerosis aims to wreak havoc on the central nervous system. OK, we get that. MS can cause memory blips, brain fog, confusion, disorientation, and other wacky cognitive symptoms. Pretty sure we understand that too.

Based on these presuppositions, plenty of experts have long advocated the use of brain training exercises for MSers, with an eye towards preserving and protecting brain power.

Lots of MSers practice puzzles, ponder logic exercises, fill in crossword puzzles, play Sudoku and chess games, work Rubik’s Cubes, and ply their brains at all sorts of other cognitive challenges to give their minds healthy workouts. Those with other conditions that potentially affect cognitive function (such as Alzheimer’s Disease, Huntington Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, and more) have also practiced brain training in the hopes of keeping their minds strong.

Does brain training work, or is it merely a mind game?

Sure, brain training makes sense, and tons of medical and psychological experts crow about it, offering all sorts of theories and methodologies. With the explosion of online, smart phone, and electronic tablet apps, brand-new computer-based brain games and brain training programs have proliferated.

On the other hand, scientific research has not yet overwhelmingly proven that these efforts make a world of difference in preserving quick minds and strong memories. In fact, last fall, the Stanford Center on Longevity published a paper questioning the value of these efforts. Endorsed by 75 expert neuroscientists and cognitive psychologists, the report concluded with this summary statement:

“We object to the claim that brain games offer consumers a scientifically grounded avenue to reduce or reverse cognitive decline when there is no compelling scientific evidence to date that they do. The promise of a magic bullet detracts from the best evidence to date, which is that cognitive health in old age reflects the long-term effects of healthy, engaged lifestyles. In the judgment of the signatories, exaggerated and misleading claims exploit the anxiety of older adults about impending cognitive decline. We encourage continued careful research and validation in this field.”

Live Science posted an article on September 4, 2015, under the byline of University of California-Berkeley editorial board chairman John Swartzberg, MD, questioning the value of brain training and citing the Stanford Center research.

Swartzberg said this about brain training:

”The best brain-health advice, based largely on observational findings, is to lead a physically active, intellectually challenging and socially engaged life. In particular, much research shows that physical exercise is a moderately effective way to maintain, and even improve, brain fitness. However, even this is far from certain.”

At the same time, the brain training camp persists in championing their cause. Despite the debates on brain training, we gotta wonder. Maybe there’s something to the old “Use-it-or-lose-it” adage. Maybe someday scientists will discover that brain teasers do more than just taunt us. Maybe they won't. In the meantime, I wanna keep my mind busy.
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1 comment:

  1. Interesting article.
    But whether brain training stifles the bad works of MS etc or not, it certainly does benefit the general thinking ability of the brain. This much we know...I think.


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