Brain Gym: Another edu-tainment fad

May 19, 2007 | By | 10 Replies More

I saw on the local news that the Brain Gym® program is being adopted (purchased) by some local schools. You may want to read what the Bad Science website has to say. Their main complaint is that it claims to be scientific, but has all the hallmarks of pseudoscience in both its structure and its teachings.

A post on opines:

the claim that Brain Gym’s 26 trademarked activities are specially suited to improve academic attainment dubious at best…

“Trademarked activities”? If you want to move your hands like this, then you have to pay for it. It reminds me of the way software companies sue over patents on inevitable and obvious chunks of code that clever lawyers manage to patent in the name of a particular umpteenth person to come up with it. But I digress.

This BrainGym® fad has been running its course in the UK, and now it has found fertile ground in the U.S. market. Market? Anything “educational” that involves a wide range of trademarks and license fees sends up a red flag for me. Their own website (the first link in this post) makes many marketing claims, but they don’t present any evidence that it has any educational benefits. No studies are cited. No experts referenced, nor results tracked.

I’m just saying, approach with caution.


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Category: Consumerism, Current Events, Education

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A convoluted mind behind a curly face. A regular traveler, a science buff, and first generation American. Graying of hair, yet still verdant of mind. Lives in South St. Louis City. See his personal website for (too much) more.

Comments (10)

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  1. grumpypilgrim says:

    Dan, let me explain a few things about intellectual property law to correct your misconceptions. First, trademarks merely identify a source of goods and distinguish them from those of competitors; they do not, as you suggest, relate to the contents of a product. Accordingly, the 26 trademarked activities would not relate to how you move your hands. A copyright, and a patent, too, if there is one, might cover the contents of that product, but not a trademark.

    Second, as regards software patents, they are, indeed, plagued by patents on code that many people would consider obvious or unoriginal; however, the main reason for this problem is that much of the prior art computer code is either unpublished, unindexed, or both. To reject a patent application, a patent examiner must cite an earlier published document, but where does one go to find copies of early computer source code? Even more importantly, where does one go to even search for it? There simply is no indexed database of prior art source code, so, frankly, patent examiners just don't have the time or the resources neede to look for it. Thus, a patent on computer code should be viewed as more of a registration than a patent, and that isn't the fault of either the lawyers or the Patent Office; it's just the nature of the software world.

  2. Ben says:

    Okay, you might think I am nuts. But I have a strong hunch that certain types of video games and games like scrabble/chess, can DRAMATICALLY boost brain power. Well, let's check… google don't fail me now!

    "In Japan, Nintendo has offered a series of unorthodox video games that, the company says, makes your mind sharper. This month, Nintendo is releasing an American version called "Brain Age." NPR's Robert Holt says that playing it makes him feel smarter — but he's not sure if it actually makes him smarter."

    I recently got a book on memory, but I keep forgetting to read it. One of the tips is if you need to remember a list of items, imagine placing the items on the list in familiar places of your bedroom. Then to recall, just imagine walking around the bedroom picking them up. The key is to add the items to your current frame of reference and even emotions. Another tip is to practice. If you really need to remember something, he says pretend that you will get 50,000 dollars if you remember it. Well, it works, I tried it! Too bad I didn't get the 50k though, would have rather had that!

  3. Erika Price says:

    Ben: Ancient Greek orators used the same method to remember speech points, except using different locations in their whole home.

  4. grumpypilgrim says:

    Just about any activity that requires thought is likely to "boost brain power." My grandmother did crossword puzzles well past her 100th birthday, and I am sure the activity helped her to stay sharp. As they say, "use it or lose it."

  5. Niklaus Pfirsig says:

    I think that for a few people, this might seem to work. Not because drinking lots of water and doing stupid excersizes really have the described effect, but because some practioners may believe they will work, and the belief will free them of the self-doubt that leads to failure.

    But in the long run, anything based on unfounded beliefs is bad because it destroys our curiousity.

    The bad sicence website does an admirable job in trying to expose pseudoscience use in selling hokey products. They have one major flaw, however.They assume that certain authoritative organizations are immune from bad science. All sources of info are suspect until proven truthful. Be vigilant, question everything, Don't believe something just because Uncle Sam says it's so.

    All video games teach. For the most part, they teach something that is only useful in playing the video game. So, knowing which baddy to shoot first on the 6th level of Doom is not going to translate to anything useful in the real world. Game theorists have long known how to make a video game that teach abstract like critical thinking, math and logic, but they tend to be bad game designers. The idea is to design a playable, salable game where puzzles are integrated into the game play that basic concepts. (E.G. Trading points for weapons upgrades)

  6. Ben says:

    My extensive video game training seemed to come in handy in my paintball game yesterday (I highly recommend you try paintball). I guess some people still might not consider that "real life", although my heart would argue!

    I think you are missing the aspect of how the video game teaches the ability to react and function in a 3-dimensional, hostile environment. Maybe you are still playing doom 4, that is the problem… the newer games are off the hook, challenging, mind-blowing! They involve teamwork, communication over headsets, quick reactions, cool nerves, you name it. Also, I think most flight simulators (and other computer simulations) would be considered part of the amazing and exciting world of video games.

  7. Erich Vieth says:

    Some of the same red flags of Baby Einstein-for more on that psuedo-educational over-hyped program, see

  8. Ben says:

    "…certain types of video games and games like scrabble/chess, can DRAMATICALLY boost brain power"

    "There was little change among those who played Ballance [a less visually demanding game], but the Medal of Honor players showed marked improvement from testing before and after playing the game. On average, female participants improved more than their male counterparts, significantly narrowing the gender gap. Perhaps more interesting is the fact that even five months down the road, the Medal of Honor players retained much of the enhanced spatial skills they had developed."….

  9. Just about any activity that requires thought is likely to “boost brain power”.

    I hear this all the time, but is it really true? I mean, I find doing crosswords only mildly interesting and if I did them till the end of my life I wouldn't be surprised if they didn't make any difference at all. If I had to play chess every day though, which requires a lot more concentration and brain activity in my opinion, I sure would believe that it could help improve or maintain the function of my brain. I don't really play chess very much, but I do notice that when I'm tired I don't play scrabble very well. I doubt though that my performance at solving crosswords would depend significantly on my mood or physical well-being.

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