THE BLOG
03/29/2013 03:54 pm ET Updated May 29, 2013

Debunking 10 Brain Fitness and Brain Training Myths

Let's debunk 10 myths about brain fitness and brain training that remain enterprisingly popular.

Top 10 brain fit­ness and brain train­ing myths, debunked:

Myth 1. Genes deter­mine the fate of our brains.
Fact: Life­long brain plas­tic­ity means that our lifestyles and behav­iors play a sig­nif­i­cant role in how our brains phys­i­cally evolve.

Myth 2. We are what we eat.
Fact: We are what we do, think, and feel, more than what we eat.

Myth 3. Med­ica­tion is the main hope for cog­ni­tive health and enhance­ment.
Fact: Non-invasive inter­ven­tions can have com­pa­ra­ble and more durable ben­e­fits, and are also free of side effects.

Myth 4. There's noth­ing we can do to beat Alzheimer's dis­ease and cog­ni­tive decline.
Fact: While noth­ing has been shown to pre­vent the pathol­ogy of Alzheimer 's dis­ease, there is abun­dant research show­ing we can delay the onset of symp­toms for years -- a very mean­ing­ful out­come that is often overlooked.

Myth 5. There is only one "it" in "use it or lose it."
Fact: The brain is com­posed of a num­ber of neural cir­cuits sup­port­ing a vari­ety of cog­ni­tive, emo­tional, and exec­u­tive func­tions. Using or exer­cis­ing just one (like "mem­ory") is unlikely to be of much help.

Myth 6. Brain train­ing can help reverse your brain age 10, 20, or 30 years.
Fact: "Brain age" is a fic­tion. Some brain func­tions tend to improve, and some decline as we get older. And there is con­sid­er­able vari­abil­ity across indi­vid­u­als, which only grows as peo­ple get older.

Myth 7. Brain train­ing doesn't work.
Fact: Brain train­ing, when it meets cer­tain con­di­tions, has been shown to improve brain fun­tions in ways that enhance real-world outcomes.

Myth 8. Brain train­ing is pri­mar­ily about videogames.
Fact: Real, evidence-based brain train­ing includes some forms of med­i­ta­tion, cog­ni­tive ther­apy, cog­ni­tive train­ing, and biofeed­back. Inter­ac­tive media such as videogames can make those inter­ven­tions more engag­ing and scal­able, but it is impor­tant to dis­tin­guish the means from the end, as obvi­ously not all videogames are the same.

Myth 9. Heart health is brain health.
Fact: While heart health con­tributes sig­nif­i­cantly to brain health, and vice versa, the heart and the brain are each cru­cial organs with their own set of func­tions and pre­ven­tive and ther­a­peu­tic inter­ven­tions. What we need now is for brain health to advance in a decade as much as car­dio­vas­cu­lar health has advanced over the last sev­eral decades.

Myth 10. As long as my brain is work­ing fine, why should I even pay atten­tion to it?
Fact: For the same rea­sons you should add gas to your car and change the oil reg­u­larly -- so that it works bet­ter and per­forms longer.

These insights come from the 2012 Sharp­Brains Vir­tual Sum­mit, a gath­er­ing of close to 200 top sci­en­tists, inno­va­tors and prac­ti­tion­ers advanc­ing the brain health field.

For more by Alvaro Fernandez, click here.

For more on brain science, click here.

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