RESEARCH

Brain Training Research

The Science

Three-Level Hypothesized Explanation of the BTT effect (McGrew, 2012)

Brain Training Technology is believed to improve the resolution and efficiency of an individual’s internal brain clock(s) and temporal processing. In turn, it is hypothesized that this results in more efficient brain connectivity, communication, and synchronization via increased integrity of the brains white matter tract communication system, producing more efficient communication between critical brain networks. In particular, research and theory suggests that IM training increases the efficacy of the parietal-frontal brain network, the brain network most associated with general intellectual functioning, working memory, controlled attention and executive functions.

The primary conclusions from the detailed scientific explanation of the IM are:

  1. The diversity of performance domains positively impacted by IM technology is due to IM improving the function of crucial brain-based domain-general neurocognitive mechanisms.
  2. The precise, real-time IM millisecond feedback impacts the temporal processing resolution of the internal brain clock, which in turn improves neural efficiency—and thus, more efficient temporal and information processing in the brain.
  3. The IM effect appears to be the result of increased efficiency and synchronization of communication between the primary brain structures that comprise the functional brain networks involved in performing both the cognitive and motor demands of IM training.
  4. IM technology may be improving brain network communication, especially within the major brain networks at the core of the P-FIT (parietal-fontal integration) model of general intelligence. IM technology may be improving the efficiency of the parietal-frontal brain network which is critical to general intellectual functioning, working memory, controlled attention, and overall cognitive efficiency.
  5. One of the most important IM training outcomes (but not the only outcome) is improved focus via increased efficiency of the attentional control system (ACS) that maintains goal related information active in working memory in the presence of internal (mind wandering) and external distractions. Improvement in efficiency of executive functions and working memory results in more efficient complex cognitive processing and learning.

2019 Publications

Martin H Teicher, PhD, MD

White paper: Developmental Biopsychiatry Research Program, McClean Hospital, Harvard Medical School

RESULTS:

Preliminary results from this ongoing study showed that 5 of 14 children (36%) diagnosed with ADHD demonstrated 40% or greater improvement on standardized neuropsychological measures of hyperactivity and spatial working memory (the executive function most notably impaired in ADHD) following completion of a combined Brain Training and Brain Balance (BB) training protocol. According to Dr Teicher, “this is a degree of improvement that we have not previously observed in children with ADHD unless they were receiving medications, and then only if they were receiving the correct medication at optimal dose.”

Neuroimaging of brain regions strongly implicated in the neurobiology of ADHD helped to parse out the influence of each training program and the effect of combining them. Specifically, scans showed that BB training was associated with increased connectivity between prefrontal cortex and the frontal pole, temporal pole, cerebellum, precentral gyrus and supramarginal gyrus with extensive effects on connectivity of the amygdala and hippocampus, which are involved in implicit and explicit memory as well as stress response.

Increased connectivity of the amygdala with supramarginal gyrus, cingulate gyrus, anterior cingulate, angular gyrus, frontal pole and precuneus were associated with combined IM and BB training. Greater connectivity between the amygdala and cingulate allows for better emotional self-regulation and impulse-control.

IM training was associated with increased connectivity between the hippocampus and the angular gyrus, precuneus, middle temporal gyrus, lateral occipital cortex, supramarginal gyrus, cingulate gyrus and frontal pole, areas responsible for language processing, memory retrieval, handwriting, mathematical calculations, and L/R discrimination. A closer examination of the impact on the cerebellum revealed that IM training was associated with increased resting state functional connectivity between: cerebellum I and middle frontal gyrus; cerebellum II and inferior temporal gyrus/fusiform gyrus; cerebellum IV-V and parahippocampal gyrus and inferior temporal gyrus/fusiform gyrus; cerebellum VII and lateral occipital cortex; cerebellum VIII and superior frontal gyrus and cerebellum IX and lingual gyrus and postcentral gyrus. IM training was also associated with decreased resting state functional connectivity between cerebellum III and anterior cingulate gyrus and cerebellum VI and lateral occipital gyrus.

“These appear to be potent changes. Our findings of symptomatic improvement and enhanced connectivity of the supramarginal gyri with the amygdala, hippocampus, and prefrontal cortex is consistent with a recent report showing that reduced connectivity of the left and right supramarginal gyri was associated with increased symptom severity in ADHD24. Given the role these regions appear to play in timing makes these observations particularly compelling.” Research is ongoing and will continue to investigate and further define the host of neurobiological changes associated with IM and BB training as well as their relationship to clinical outcome for individuals with ADHD.

DETAILS:

  • n=14 (8-14 years of age) confirmed to have ADHD through structured diagnostic interview (K-SADS-PL)
  • intervention: 15 weeks of combined Brain Training and Brain Balance training (up to 75 sessions) were completed remotely via online access
    • standardized exercises with no individualization
    • not directly supervised by an experienced administrator (carried out by families at home)
  • clinical outcome measures:
  • ADHD Quotient System. “This test is highly responsive to the effects of medication, correlates with blood levels of methylphenidate but is not responsive to placebo. Indeed, we reported in N=30 children receiving placebo that only 7% showed a greater than 25% improvement and none had a 40% or greater improvement in Quotient scaled scores.”
  • Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery (CANTAB) to evaluate spatial working memory
  • Neuroimaging with diffusion MRI optimized to evaluate the brain’s structural connections (part of the Human Connectome Project)

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Silvia Bonacina, Jennifer Krizman, Travis White-Schwoch, Trent Nicol, and Nina Kraus

Published in GLOBAL PEDIATRIC HEALTH

RESULTS:

Simply drumming to a isochronous beat had no impact on recall of rhythmic patterns. Children who performed better at drumming to the beat of music were better at both drumming to a beat and remembering rhythmic patterns. However, children who were able to clap in time with a steady beat with the least amount of variability in their synchronization (due to real time millisecond feedback from Brain Training) demonstrated better ability to drum to a beat, recall rhythmic patterns & drum to the beat of music. According to Dr Nina Kraus, rhythm is complicated, there are several rhythm intelligences, & Brain Training, by itself, impacts all of these vital rhythms that are so important to the development of language and literacy. “Several clinical populations exhibit timing deficits that co-occur with to language deficits; for example, individuals with reading impairment often struggle to tap along to an isochronous beat. It is conceivable that clapping in time to feedback could be a viable intervention for populations with distinct rhythmic deficits (such as one group who struggles to synchronize to a beat and another who struggles to remember rhythmic patterns).” The authors hypothesize that the perception & production of rhythm begins as a global skill early and becomes more specialized later in life. This is in line with previous IM research and the IM Indicator Table data.

DETAILS:

  • n=68 typically developing children between 5 – 8 years of age
  • n=46 children were re-assessed 1 year after conclusion of the study to monitor development of rhythmic skills
  • first study of its kind to provide evidence of the interconnections among rhythmic skills in school-age children
  • assessed via 4 different rhythmic tasks:
    • 3 tasks used a conga drum, with a trigger to register drum hits:
      1. Drumming to an Isochronous Beat: listen and drum to an isochronous pacing beat presented through in-ear headphones
      2. Remembering and Repeating Rhythmic Patterns: listen to 3 repetitions of a rhythmic sequence without drumming and then drum out the sequence during a pause, producing the sequence exactly when it would have occurred had it repeated a fourth time
      3. Drumming to the Beat of Music: listen to a musical excerpt through speakers and tap to the perceived beat
    • 1 task involved clapping in time and was completed using Brain Training Technology

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2018 Publications

Louise Rönnqvist, Rachel McDonald and Marius Sommer

Published in FRONTIERS IN PSYCHOLOGY

The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effect of Brain Training Technology on athlete’s sensorimotor timing ability and whether timing and rhythm training is a valuable adjunct to soccer training for performance enhancement. Twenty-four female sub-elite and elite outfield soccer players ages 16.2 to 25.8 were randomly assigned to an experimental group that received 45-50 min sessions of Brain Training 3x/week in addition to regular pre-season soccer practices (for a total of 12 IM sessions over 4 weeks) or a control group that just participated in the same pre-season soccer practices. Millisecond timing and rhythm were measured via Brain Training. Both groups also participated in pre and post examination of performance on a complex, high cognitive-load stepping task, recorded in 2D and 3D for each participant via an optoelectronic motion capture system, for kinematic analysis.

RESULTS:

The experimental (BT) group demonstrated significant improvement in millisecond timing, compared to the control group, as a result of IM training. Additionally, the group that received BT training demonstrated greater speed and accuracy on the high cognitive-load, complex stepping task. BT training appeared to positively impact executive-controlled attention and working memory in the experimental group leading to improved performance in motor coordination, precision and speed when compared to the control group. Of interest, those athletes who demonstrated the MOST improvement in timing scores on Brain Training also demonstrated the GREATEST gains in speed and accuracy on the complex stepping task. Correlations were found between the participants’ performance on the stepping task and kinematic parameters, likely associated with inter-individual variations in higher-order cognitive processing ability. Recent studies have confirmed that executive functions are imperative for high performance in soccer and hockey. The more elite the player, the higher they tend to perform on tests of executive functioning. “…the findings from the present study provide support for the explanation that SMT [Brain Training] may strengthen the neural pathways within the spatiotemporal network, and thereby improve motor planning ability.”

“To conclude, even if physical strength and mental ability are of high importance in all sport performance, sensorimotor timing ability may be the key factor. The present study emphasizes the importance of improving the cognitive-motor planning ability and sensorimotor timing skills, especially in team sport such as soccer where the players have to rely on accurately timed actions on milliseconds level. It is clear from the results that synchronized sensorimotor timing abilities should be acknowledged as a critical factor for soccer player’s performance. Additionally, that SMT [Brain Training] also may be beneficial for both general motor planning and in other sports performance and situations of complex, high cognitive-motor demanded tasks, and dynamic contexts.”

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Jin Hyun Kim, Joung Kyue Han, & Doug Hyun Han

Published in HUMAN MOVEMENT SCIENCE

Prior research utilizing kinematic analysis & functional MRI have shown that Brain Training facilitates measureable and statistically significant improvements in golf shot accuracy (distance to the pin) and substantial improvement in performance consistency (Sommer & Rönnqvist, 2009; Sommer et al., 2014). In the present study, 20 professional female golfers from the KLPGA participated in a randomized, controlled study comparing the effect of IM training (35-40 min, twice weekly for 6 weeks) to spending more time playing the game of golf (increasing golf playing time by an additional 35-40 min twice weekly for 6 weeks).

The purpose of the study was to determine the impact of IM on swing speed during putting, which was specifically executed at a distance of 2-5m, which has been previously determined to set apart elite golfers who achieve a par or birdie compared to those that demonstrate only about a 10% success rate (Pelz, 2000). Golf putting movements and brain activity were analyzed using Kinovea Software and resting state functional MRI (fMRI). Performance variability (or consistency) was measured as the standard deviation of mean swing speed (SSD) during 3 sections of the swing: backswing, backswing-impact, and impact-finish.

Upon completion of the 6 week study, professional golfers who received IM training demonstrated improved timing between the back swing and impact for both the 2m putt and 5m putt compared to the control group. A comparison of brain activity under fMRI between the IM group and the control showed increased functional connectivity from the superior cerebellar vermis to the right medial frontal gyrus, left superior temporal gyrus, right middle occipital gyrus, right middle temporal gyrus, right cingulate gyrus, and right supramarginal gyrus (uncorrected p < 0.001, voxels > 40).

“These findings suggest that IM training in professional female golf players may improve consistency in putt timing. In addition, IM training may increase brain connectivity from the cerebellum to the frontal cortex, which plays an important role in motor control and timing.”

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Silvia Bonacina, Jennifer Krizman, Travis White-Schwoch, and Nina Kraus

Published in ANNALS OF THE NEW YORK ACADEMY OF SCIENCES

The ability to synchronize motor movements with a steady auditory beat is dependent upon a shared network between sensory and motor systems that also engages auditory and cognitive processes involved in reading. The purpose of this study was to investigate whether links, that have been previously demonstrated in older children, exist between synchronization ability and literacy skills in 64 typically developing children. Results indicated that children who can synchronize most consistently with the least variability in timing & rhythm demonstrate more advanced neurophysiological responses linked with language skills. Significantly, performing the auditory-motor synchronization with visual feedback for millisecond timing (Brain Training) was linked with several literacy skills, including processing speed, phonological processing, word reading, spelling, morphology, and syntax. “These results suggest that rhythm skills and literacy call on overlapping neural mechanisms, supporting the idea that rhythm training may boost literacy in part by engaging sensory-motor systems.”

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