Brain Awareness Week gets me thinking

Did you know that we are half way through ?  According to Dana Alliance, the nonprofit organization of 260 leading neuroscientists (including ten Nobel laureates) behind the initiative – now in its 12th year, events are taking place in 69 countries.

It seems to have had little public relations support in the UK, but today, in Manchester (the only activity I could find), shoppers at Asda supermarket, have been learning about their little grey cells.  Helping people understand how the brain works and more about diseases such as  Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s sounds a really good idea. 

However, I also discover a piggy-back PR campaign:

To celebrate National Brain Awareness Week, online games retailer are going all intellectual and encouraging customers to give
their brain a thorough workout. From 12th – 18th March they will be
offering Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training for only £16.99, in addition to a
number of superb bundle offers!

Which got me thinking about whether it was appropriate to link computer games in this way – and I discovered something very interesting about Dr Kawashima, relating to my concerns yesterday about the credibility of academics.

In 2001, the  reported Kawashima, needing funds for his brain imaging research, decided to investigate the levels of brain activity in children playing video games hoping this would benefit game manufacturers.  He compared brain activity in children playing Nintendo games with those doing the Kraepelin test (adding single-digit numbers continuously for 30 minutes). 

BTW, discovered schizophrenia , manic-depression and jointly discovered Alzheimer’s disease with Dr. Alois Alzheimer.  

Kawashima’s findings showed the Nintendo group used parts of the brain associated with vision and movement, while the other children had activity throughout the left and right hemispheres of the frontal lobe – areas of the brain associated with learning, memory, emotion, and impulse control.   Back then, Kawashima said 

“There is a problem we will have with a new generation of children – who play computer games – that we have never seen before.  The implications are very serious for an increasingly violent society and these students will be doing more and more bad things if they are playing games and not doing other things like reading aloud or learning arithmetic.” 

He appeared certain that excessive playing of computer and video games would make children more prone to act more violently as they grow up.   Of course, the findings were criticised by the software industry and hey presto, in 2006, we get Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training

Designed by a prominent neuroscientist, Brain Training for Adults, a package of cerebral workouts aimed at the over-45s by the Japanese game console and software maker Nintendo, is said to improve mental agility and even slow the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease – said the  Observer.

How interesting.  Other scientists are sceptical of the games’s abilities – but clearly in the case of Nintendo and Kawashima, there has been a meeting of minds.

Published by

Heather Yaxley PhD

Dr. Heather Yaxley is passionate about sustainable careers, reflective practice and professional development. I am a rhizomatic educator, practitioner, consultant, academic and scholar. As a qualified academic, I teach the CIPR professional qualifications with PR Academy and have experience teaching at various Universities. I run the Motor Industry Public Affairs Association (MIPAA) and my own strategic consultancy. I was awarded by PhD researching Career Strategies in Public Relations by Bournemouth University in 2017. I'm a published author, with books, chapters and academic papers to my name.

2 thoughts on “Brain Awareness Week gets me thinking”

  1. Great article. We have not seen any research published on the benefits of Brain Age.

    However, the overal field makes sense. We did an interview with a neuroscientist that explains this trend very well, with quotes such as

    “Rigorous and targeted cognitive training has been used in clinical practice for many years. It can help improve memory, attention, confidence and competence, reasoning skills, even how to reduce anxiety and deal with uncomfortable situations.” and “The brain evolves as we age. Some areas, such as pattern recognition, get better with age. Some require extra-workouts in order to reduce “chinks in the armor” and increase neuroprotection through the Cognitive (or Brain) Reserve). Hence, the need for targeted cognitive training.”

    Check the full interview here

  2. Thank you – I agree that being mentally agile is important, at all ages. I am not totally convinced that computer games are the best approach as they are presented as a simple solution.

    A bit like physical exercise, there is a lot that can be gained without any cost from real world workouts. This would include intelligent conversation, reading newspapers, word and maths puzzles, etc etc.

    I have a terrible image of children and older people individually playing games rather than all the fun and interest that is gained from real world engagement.

    We don’t use our memories enough as it is because of technology – calculators, mobile phones, satelite navigation, etc – and seem to forget that the best way to develop cognitive skills is to use our brain for practical things.

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