(NaturalNews) Computer-based brain exercises, long touted as a way to improve general intelligence, actually appear to improve certain measures of mental function, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and the University of Bern, Switzerland, and published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
"The difference was most pronounced in those who had been slower to start with, but the mental ability of everyone who had taken part improved," researcher Walter Perrig said.
Researchers gave 70 volunteers with an average age of 26 a series of tests intended to gauge their mental function. Half the participants were then subjected to two weeks of computerized brain exercises unrelated to the mental function tests. Participants were asked to complete tasks such as listening to letters of the alphabet and remembering which one had been recited three letters earlier, or remembering which pattern had been previously displayed. The computer automatically adjusted the difficulty of the tests, with each correct response making the next question harder and a wrong answer making the next question easier.
After two weeks, all participants were again given the original mental function tests. Those who had participated in the computer testing program performed better than those who had not taken the computer tests.
"Intelligence has always been considered principally an immutable inherited trait. Our results show you can increase your intelligence with appropriate training," researcher Susanne Jaeggi said.
Well-known British scientist Baroness Susan Greenfield agreed.
"There is evidence that such stimulation prompts brain cells to start branching out and form new connections with other cells," Greenfield said.
But the effect cannot be achieved without regular practice, Jaeggi emphasized.
"It's the same in sports," she said. "You cannot expect to get better in football if you merely run around a little bit."