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Database: UK10

Created On Wednesday, 08 January 2014 16:43 By José Jesús Delgado

ID Code (e. g. HU1):
BBC LabUk – Brain Test Britain
Dr Adrian Owen of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit and the University of Cambridge and Professor Clive Ballard of Kings College, London, who is director of research for the Alzheimer’s Society.

TYPE (SME, Company, Community Centre, Health Centre, Educational Centre, Foundation,
Municipality, governmental institution, etc):
Community Interest Company
BBC Audience Services
PO Box 1922
E-MAIL: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
  In this case, please indicate the territorial
scope of the organization:

Age range:
From: N/A to N/A years Not defined
Older than: 50 years  
Gender: Unisex

4 - CHARACTERISTICS OF THE MIND FITNESS PROGRAM / SERVICE / ACTIVITY (NB: Should the program, service or activity be included into more than one category, please select the most representative category for that PSA. But, REMEMBER: THE PSA MUST BE SELECTED ONLY IN CASE THAT MENTAL FITNESS / MENTAL WELLBEING IS INCLUDED IN ITS GENERAL AIMS OR GOALS. IF NOT, YOU SHOULD NOT SELECT IT. The characteristics below are the means, not the goal)
Providing opportunities for learning and studying, Helping to improve mental fitness / wellbeing by learning digital competences (TIC)
Other: N/A
(EXPECTED) DURATION OF THE Programme/Service/Activity: Not defined
Begin (Month/Year, e. g. 02/2012):N/A
End (Month/Year, e. g. 02/2012):N/A or Number of weeks:10 minutes x 3 x 6 weeks (under 60); 12 months (over 60)
Number of units:N/A
Hours per unit:N/A

BBC Lab UK launched in September 2009 with the Brain Test Britain experiment, which aimed to answer the question: does brain training actually work? Many thousands of members of the public took part, making it the largest ever study of computer-based brain training.

The Brain Test Britain experiment is designed to show whether or not brain training actually works. They were looking for evidence that regularly doing popular brain training tasks improved an individual’s ‘brain skills’.

Since then, BBC Lab UK has launched a series of major experiments – the Big Personality Test, the Web Behaviour Test, How Musical Are You?, the Great British Class Survey, the Big Risk Test, the Big Money Test, the Stress Test, the Get Yourself Hired test,Test Your Morality and Can You Compete Under Pressure? - all of which have received a huge public response. We plan to launch more BBC Lab UK experiments in the future. Each BBC Lab UK experiment is designed in collaboration with leading scientists and high profile BBC programmes, such as Bang Goes the Theory, Child of Our Time and The Virtual Revolution.

a.- Which materials were used?
Individuals (over 18) to take part online tests (see methodology). To investigate how effective different kinds of training might be, participants ( referred to as brain trainers) were allocated to three different groups. There were two brain training groups – one training on ‘Reasoning’ tasks, the other on ‘Non-reasoning’ tasks. The third group session, three times a week for a minimum of six weeks.
b.- Who conducted the program / service activity? (What role, what qualifications, etc.)
The test was devised and data analysed by Dr Adrian Owen and Professor Clive Ballard

7 - METHODOLOGY USED (presentations, pair work, group work, peers, mentors, blended
learning, e-learning, etc.)
Reasoning brain training group - Reasoning games involve planning, problem-solving and analysis .Reasoning brain training tasks mostly involve planning, problem-solving and analysis. Tasks got harder as the trainers’ performance improved. Reasoning training tasks were designed to continuously challenge mental performance and therefore maximise any benefits of training. All these tasks activate the frontal lobes of your brain, areas essential to reasoning and problem-solving.

Loop the Loop - you have to keep looking ahead to ensure that the move you make now won’t hinder your progress later on. To get better at it, you need to develop strategies.

Slider - another task in which every move you make affects your subsequent moves. You must work out strategies and plan ahead to solve the puzzles.

Crates - you must assess how each move will affect the overall solution and refine your strategy by looking at the relationship between the shapes and establishing patterns.

See saw -involves a different type of reasoning to the other tasks in this group. You need to establish the relationships between the objects rather than focus on their individual properties.

Pick and Mix, every move you make affects subsequent moves. Some moves can be fatal, unless you retrace your steps and undo that critical bad move.

Flower Finder is a logical reasoning task where you identify the odd one out. Work out the relationships between the flowers to establish which one doesn’t follow the rule.

Non-reasoning brain training group - Non-reasoning brain training tasks mostly involve short-term memory, attention to detail, maths and interpreting visual information.. In this group, the training tasks also got harder as the trainers’ performance improved. Non-reasoning training tasks were designed to continuously challenge mental performance and therefore maximise any benefits of training.

Balloons -involves simple maths. In many cases, the sums can be solved by using long-term memory. For example, you may simply remember that 7x7 = 49, rather than working it out. Rough mathematical calculations like these involve the parietal lobe of the brain.

Airport Security - involves concentration, counting, memory and simple maths as you try to keep track of the suitcases entering and leaving the scanner. This task is likely to use the brain’s Parietal lobe for concentration and simple maths and Temporal lobe for memory.

Pairs - a classic memory task. It is possible to use strategies to improve your performance, but most people simply try to cram as much information into their memory as possible. Temporal lobe and hippocampus, essential for memory.

Jigsaw - task that tests your ability to process visual information. You need good pattern perception and visual matching to fit the pieces together correctly. Parietal, visual cortex and temporal lobes.

Low to High - a visual search task that involves some counting. Parietal lobe.

Whack-a Jack - involves visual search and simple matching abilities. Parietal lobe.

Control group - The Control group tasks did not involve any actual brain training. Instead, trainers performed tasks that required spending roughly the same amount of time using a computer and accessing the internet as the Reasoning and Non-reasoning brain training groups.

In each session, trainers were given questions from six general categories: Population, History, Duration, Pop Music, Miscellaneous Numbers and Distance (example: What year did Henry VIII die?). They were then asked to place the answers in the correct chronological, numerical or size order. Trainers were encouraged to use the internet to help them answer correctly, rather than simply guess.

The Brain Test Britain experiment gathered data from hundreds of thousands of training sessions and tens of thousands of benchmarking tests.

67,186 people signed up to take part in the ritain experiment. (This figure is for the period 7 Sept to 25 November 2009, the period during which the data for this analysis was gathered).

More women signed up to take part than men - 57.6% of Brain Test Britain participants were women .Women also completed an average of 2.2 more training sessions than men.

Participants had generally reached a high level of education, with more than 50% having a university degree or higher qualification.

Brain Test Britain participants had an ethnic make up broadly representative of the UK.

The average age of people signing up to take part was 43.

Older trainers were more likely to complete more training sessions than younger trainers.

Benchmarking - After signing up to the experiment, the first thing brain trainers were asked to do was take a set of ‘benchmarking’ tests. These tests assessed specific brain skills that we all have, and gave our scientists an idea of each trainer’s ‘starting point’. At the end of this six week period, they were given the same benchmarking tests again.

Over 60s - participants completed 2 additional benchmarking tests, and then to continue training for a full twelve months rather than just six weeks.

Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL): a questionnaire commonly used to gauge a person’s ability to live an independent life. It focuses on eight everyday tasks, including meal preparation, finances and shopping. Brain trainers are asked to rate themselves on the level of difficulty they have with each task.

Verbal Recall Test: This test looks at ‘verbal episodic memory’. ability to recognise words that you have heard before and where you heard them. First a list of words is read out to you. You then take a break, Later, you return to the Verbal Recall Test where a second list of words is read out to you. You dentify which words were in both the first and second list.

Conclusions -

‘Practice makes perfect’. People who play brain training games get better at those specific brain training games. There was however no evidence that the benefits of brain training transfer to the brain skills measured by our benchmarking tests. The two brain training groups saw big improvements in brain training scores between the first and last training sessions. Those who practised brain training tasks got better at those specific brain training tasks, whether Reasoning or Non-reasoning. Control group scores improved only modestly.

Trainers in the Reasoning group did more sessions, tasks and days than the other two groups, completing an average of 28.39 training sessions over the initial 6 week period. This compares with 23.86 sessions for the Non-reasoning group and 18.66 sessions for the Control group. These results suggest that the Reasoning group’s tasks were more fun and engaging than those in the other two groups, perhaps encouraging them to train more. The Control group’s tasks appear to have been by far the least engaging of the three groups.

The amount of training people did in all three groups didn’t have any effect on how well people performed in their benchmarking tests.

For the MENTA project, the results of this test are significant in that 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.

The tasks themselves were similar to those commonly found in commercially available brain training . However most of the studies used to support the claims made by this commercially sector 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 was of course refuted in , for example, the responses below:

In our MENTA project,we should and must be mindful of this debate however and ensure that we integrate broader learning methods consistently in addition to serious games.



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