Why computer training
is not effective
Problem with brain jogging
As already analyzed here, the main criticism of computer-based brain training is the frequent lack of transfer. Traditional training apps, therefore, face the problem that performance in the trained task may improve, but the transfer to practical application, whether in everyday life, sports or profession, is not guaranteed. One of the reasons for this is the low ecological validity of the training. This means that the training task and practical application, in terms of identical elements theory, significantly differ from each other. This is particularly true for motor skills. While everyday tasks frequently involve complex movements such as locomotion, which always include balance control, this is not the case in computer-based training.
Principles of neuronal
Adaptability of the brain
The principle of neuronal plasticity forms the basis for brain training. It describes the adaptability of the brain in terms of the forming new synapses and/or neurons to enhance visual, cognitive and motor performance. In this context, the brain is often compared to a muscle. If we train a muscle, the muscle will adapt; if we train the brain, the brain will adapt. However, this principle also works in the opposite direction. If a muscle is not trained, its performance decreases, and in worst case, sarcopenia occurs. Similarly, if the brain is not exercised, its performance also declines, leading to potential neurodegenerative diseases such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.
The fact is that our brains are increasingly less challenged in everyday life. While decades ago, for example, calculators made computing easier, in the more recent past navigation systems have made it easier for people to find their way around. Current developments in artificial intelligence (AI) will mean that more complex cognitive processes, such as recognizing correlations and drawing conclusions, can also be performed by computers. While this makes it easier for the brain to work, it will adapt by reducing the necessary capacity and decreasing performance.
Visual, cognitive, motoric
VIKOMOTORIK training was developed to counteract the reduction of visual, cognitive and motor skills not only in the aging process, but also starting from the current technological developments described above. It is based on current concepts from sports and neuroscience, three of them will be presented in more detail:
The principle of the effective training stimulus is known from sports science. It describes the need to expose the biological system to a sufficiently strong stimulus in order to achieve adaptations. In strength training, for example, this would be a weight that the muscle has to move. The key is that the weight is challenging for the muscle. Only then the muscle will adapt, e.g. through hypertrophy, and develop a higher strength capacity after training. It is similar with the brain. Instead of a weight, the brain must be confronted with visual, cognitive and motor challenges. Unlike muscle, there is no hypertrophy, but rather, it undergoes processes of neuronal plasticity, such as the formation of new synapses. It is important to avoid routines, as repetitive training stimuli will eventually no longer have a training effect and therefore will not lead to further adaptations. Here, too, the comparison with strength training applies here as well. If a muscle is always trained with the same weight, the training progress stops after a certain point. Therefore, the weight is progressively increased in training. The VIKOMOTORIK training follows the principle of the effective training stimulus and challenges the brain with different levels. In addition, the large number of exercises prevents routines in the training process. This can optimize neuronal plasticity.
The second concept of VIKOMOTORIK training is the combination of visual, cognitive and motor training content. Following the principle of ecological dynamics. A significant disadvantage of computer-based brain training is that it often lacks the transfer from training to practice, since cognitive processes are isolated and motor skills play no role in training. This approach contradicts current findings from both neuroscience and evolutionary biology. Thousands of years ago, for example, our ancestors’ hunting activities involved a multitude of visual, cognitive, and motor processes. Thus, prehistoric people had to detect the movement of animals and correctly estimate their speed and distance. Based on this information, decisions were often made within a few seconds and the correct motor action had to be initiated to make the hunt a success. Crucially, these visual, cognitive, and motor processes always occurred together. Thus, from an evolutionary biological point of view, this underline’s the importance of combined visual-cognitive-motor training. Against this background, the increasing number of studies showing higher training effectiveness of motor-cognitive training compared to classical computer-based training is not surprising. Following this system, all exercises in the VIKOMOTORIK training include visual, cognitive and motor components which are weighted differently according to the objective of the training.
As a third concept, VIKOMOTORIK training follows the guided plasticity facilitation model. This model describes the importance of cognitive and physical activity for neuronal plasticity. The cognitive component of the training task takes over the “guidance” part. Cognitive tasks activate specific neural networks. During the task, these networks have a greater potential to adapt (neuronal plasticity) due to the higher activity. The plasticity facilitation part is the physical activity. In particular, intense endurance exercise leads to the release of neurotrophic factors such as BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor). These growth factors support neuronal plasticity in the brain and promote the formation of new synapses, for example. At the same time, the degradation of existing neurons is reduced. Growth factors such as BDNF thus have two beneficial effects, supporting neuronal plasticity while reducing brain matter breakdown. VIKOMOTORIK training on SKILLCOURT follows this principle by coupling the cognitive task of training with a motor task, whose activity level is significantly higher than in computer-based training, for example.
Effectiveness of the training approaches
Current research on VIKOMOTORIK training supports the effectiveness of the training approach. Thus, comparisons of physical activity showed that VIKOMOTORIK training requires significantly higher physical activity than classical brain training on a computer. This supports the concept of guided plasticity facilitation. In addition, recent results in sports confirm that VIKOMOTORIK training in the sense of ecological dynamics significantly improves the transfer from training to sports compared to normal agility training. The same applies to the area of diagnostics. An assessment on SKILLCOURT based on VIKOMOTORIK concept achieved a better predictive quality for match performance in soccer than a classical test battery of purely cognitive and motor tests.