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Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training for Nintendo Switch Will Not Improve Your Brain

Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:27 PM
William Worrall
Last Updated September 23, 2020 1:27 PM
  • Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training has been released on Nintendo Switch.
  • The game is supposed to improve your mental ability.
  • There is strong evidence that the mini-games actually do little to nothing for your cognitive functions.

The new year is upon us, and that means resolutions. All over the world, people are joining their local gym and generally trying to make themselves better people. Today Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training was released for Nintendo Switch. Now you can game to try and improve your mind as well as your body.

Brain Training originally came out on the DS back in 2006. It was one of the most popular games for the system. Before long everyone and their grandmothers were ‘training their brains,’ and the world became filled with geniuses. Except, that didn’t happen because Brain Training doesn’t really do anything.

Brain Training Games Straight Up Don’t Work

Dr. Kawashima’s Brain Training is a pretty simple game. It’s basically a bunch of mini-games that are supposed to train your mind in different fields, such as memory, spatial recognition, and mental reasoning. As you play the games each day, they measure how much you’ve improved.

The problem with the game’s premise is that getting better at the games is just about all that you will do. A study done by the BBC back in 2010  seems to show that when you play brain training games daily, the only thing you improve is your ability to perform at the specific tasks you’re repeating every day.

The study even features a response from Nintendo, which basically said the game wasn’t supposed to do anything. This is in total contrast to the marketing for the game, which very much makes it seem like it’ll do your brain some good. Typical of Nintendo’s attitude really.  According to BBC in 2010 :

Leading game maker Nintendo said their Dr. Kawashima brain training games did not claim to be scientifically proven to improve cognitive function.

Nintendo - Brain Training
Nintendo can claim whatever they like, it seems pretty cut-and-dry to me that they intend people to think that playing this game will actually help your mental ability. | Source: GameFAQs 

At Least It Helps Alzheimer’s (Maybe)

The only potential benefit of brain training games is for those who have Alzheimer’s Syndrome or other forms of dementia, according to a study. Even that benefit is still hotly debated. Dr. Kawashima’s original research into the subject  used a Japanese nursing home and seemed to show that performing simple tasks improved brain function in dementia patients.

On the other hand, the games used in the BBC report were designed by the UK’s Alzheimer’s society. According to a representative of the foundation, “more research is needed” to see if these games will help patients improve as they get older. Right now it’s still not clear what sort of impact these games will have.

Overall, the annoying part about this isn’t that these games don’t necessarily help your mental ability. It’s more that Nintendo makes it seem like they will. Then when they’re challenged on it, they say, ‘we never said it was scientifically proven to help.’ I don’t know about anyone else, but plastering the mug of a famous neuroscientist all over your game makes it seem like they’re saying it’s scientifically proven to me.