CSR Report > Archive 2013 > Feature 1 An Incredible way to Train Your Brain:
                     Only a Game Makes it Possible

CSR Report

[Feature 1] New Potential of Video Games - An Incredible way to Train Your Brain: Only a Game Makes it Possible

Rigorous training of the brain based on the latest neuroscience can be fun, if it is a game. Brain Age: Concentration Training, based on the work of Professor Ryuta Kawashima of the Institute of Development, Aging and Cancer of Tohoku University, can increase the potential of a player's brain.
Dr. Ryuta Kawashima Professor Tohoku University

Maximize Athletes' Potential

The software development of Brain Age: Concentration Training began when a professor at Sendai University approached me to help figure out how to maximize the potential of a skeleton*1 athlete. At the Olympics, skeleton athletes are not allowed to practice on the actual course for more than a few times before the race. Therefore, by improving their "working memory," I thought they would be able to internalize the course before the race, hence be more prepared and ultimately produce better results.
  Working memory is a brain system in which a person retains certain information, which can be manipulated and used, for a period of time. People need working memory in order to communicate with others: in responding to other people while listening to and comprehending what they are saying. In situations such as sport, working memory is used to predict what will happen next and make judgments accordingly.

I predicted that by increasing the capacity of a person's working memory or, in other words, by increasing the amount of information that a person could retain at one time, the ability to multitask and implement memorized tasks would increase. Therefore, my theory was that improvement in working memory would lead to an overall improvement in athletic ability. To apply this theory, I asked the athletes to train their working memories by playing a prototype of the software created by Nintendo. All of the athletes' results improved. Seeing this, I made a proposal to Nintendo to turn this technology into an actual game. This is what eventually became Brain Age: Concentration Training.

Skeleton is a single-person sledding sport in which riders travel headfirst with their stomach on the sled. The course for the race is 1300 to 1500 meters long.

Continuing the training is easy: because it is a game

The training activities included in Brain Age: Concentration Training require you to memorize and process multiple tasks simultaneously, as in Concentration Calculations*2, and since the difficulty level adjusts automatically according to performance, players are always required to perform at the upper limit of their mental capacity. In order to improve, players must carry out this training on a daily basis. Nevertheless, because Brain Age: Concentration Training is a game, it has many fun features that help them to keep going.
  For example, because the result of an activity is recorded after each session, players are able to see their progress and feel a sense of achievement. Also, using StreetPass, players can compare their scores with others, which helps heighten motivation to remain competitive against family members and friends. Furthermore, the character that appears in Brain Age: Concentration Training, which is me (Professor Kawashima), was created carefully by the development staff to give the player a feeling of being trained one-on-one, so they feel like they have their own personal trainer.

A training activity in which the player must memorize and write the answer to a previous problem, while solving the next problem. "1-back" requires players to provide the answer for the previously displayed problem, and "2-back" requires the player to provide the answer for the problem displayed two problems earlier.

Players’ Contributions to Society

Training your working memory contributes to maximizing your potential in all aspects of your daily life, including work, study, housework and sport. I believe that a system that uses the strengths of a game to promote continual training can be regarded as one type of social contribution.
  In addition, Brain Age: Concentration Training can use the SpotPass feature to send players' training data*3 to my lab. By analyzing the collected data, I am very hopeful that we will be able to advance our research. I think that Brain Age: Concentration Training contributes to society in two ways: by bringing out the potential of the brain, and by offering training data to be used for the development of new technologies to benefit future generations. I hope to see more progress in increasing the potential of games in the future.

This excludes the training data of players in the North American region.

Benefits to Your Working Memory - Although there are personal differences, using Brain Age: Concentration Training to train your working memory will improve your ability to get things done, exercise restraint, predict and make judgments, and will aid concentration. The expected outcome is a positive effect on work, study, housework, sport and other aspects of your daily life.

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