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06th March 2016

Training your Brain

The use of mobile phone and computer technology comes in for a lot of concern and criticism when we’re thinking about people’s mental well-being. Concerns about online bullying and spending excessive time interacting with a screen rather than other people lead us to be wary of over-reliance on information technology if we want to maintain good physical and mental health . However it has its uses, and there’s some research showing the beneficial uses of mobile phone and computer applications (apps) that can help the thinking process of people with schizophrenia.

Based on research

A study by researchers at Cambridge University developed a cognitive training game called Wizard for use on an iPad which involved a number people with schizophrenia playing the game frequently and researchers found an improvement in memory and other mental functioning. These are areas that can suffer when people have schizophrenia. Other symptoms may be managed with medication, but some aspects of memory problems remain such as remembering times and dates. Researchers also pointed to the benefits of using something which users found fun.

Testing your brain

Alzheimer’s Society are also undertaking research to see how much stimulating the mind using applications like this can help prevent or delay the onset of Alzheimer’s Disease. Already there is evidence that people who have stimulated their mind throughout their life in their work, or doing a daily crossword for example, are much better equipped in later life to carry out daily activities that require memory and ordering. The Alzheimer’s Society provide a brain training test on their website for free that involves no signing up process – it’s called the see-saw challenge.

More apps

There are a number of apps (Lumosity, Elevate and Eidetic to name three) which provide games and exercises that test your problem solving skills and your attention span. There’s one that’s a bit different called Happify that tries to encourage positive thinking to improve your mental well-being. It invites you to do what it calls ‘explore tracks’ or aspects of your life, with a view to being more positive about your life -in many ways similar to solution-focused therapy. Please note, not all the tracks can be explored for free and using the site involves a registration process!

Let’s be cautious – there is some research around these app but none will claim to be interventions or treatments. There’s a cost to some, and not all are available on all computer or mobile phone platforms. I’m sure there’s as many helpful paper based brain trainers around. I do the daily maths puzzle in the Independent newspaper- but now that’s going digital!

David Beckingham – QCS Expert Mental Health Contributor

Topics: Mental Health

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