Playing cognitive training games can make children smarter, declared researchers at the University of California, Berkeley. According to this research, presented recently at the Learning and the Brain conference in San Francisco, children aged 7 to 9 who played a set of challenging games that involved critical reasoning skills improved by over 30% on standardized measures of nonverbal intelligence. Over the course of 8 weeks, the children played twice a week for an hour each time.
Dr. Silvia Bunge, the study’s principal investigator, said that the STOMP (Structured Training Of Mental Processes) program used in this research improved the student’s abilities to reason effectively by engaging key brain processes that are essential for effective learning and school performance. Dr. Bunge believes that improving core reasoning abilities will help students be better prepared to learn.
A separate group of children received games that emphasized mental speed. These children improved on a test used to measure mental speed of processing, but they did not improve on the measure of nonverbal intelligence. Children in the reasoning training group did not improve on measures of mental speed. This dissociation of training benefits is intriguing and suggests that a complete cognitive training regimen needs to include different activities that target distinct brain functions like speed, memory, attention, flexibility and problem solving.
These results are exciting because they demonstrate that cognitive training with engaging games can enhance critical thinking skills in children who may be struggling in school.