Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Brain-Body Performance Institute - Nintendo's creepy half-brother

Executive brain training hit the news this week...
OFFICE workers will undergo brain training to become ''executive athletes'' in an Australian-first clinical trial aimed at making staff smarter, healthier and more productive.
You know? Just like the Nintendo DS Brain Training games (RRP $49.95). The program being spruiked in this article is the one run by Paul Taylor of the Brain-Body Performance Institute.
We take the latest research from the disciplines of Neuroscience, Physiology and Psychology and blend it with the lessons of the Armed Forces and Elite Athletes to create programs that are both easy to follow and powerfully effective.
So you're saying I'll also need a Wii Fit Plus (RRP $159). Assuredly, though, my "Biological Age" ("as seen on the Biggest Loser"), bares no resemblance whatsoever to my Wii Fit Age? Or my Brain Age

I'm probably being unfair though. I am sure that the testing developed by Mr Taylor and neuropsychologist Dr Roy Sugarman is far more sophisticated than those silly Nintendo 'games'. Why not try this simple test? Pick which of these lines is from Mr Taylor, and which is from the website of Dr Kawashima's Brain Training.
Ten years ago we thought the brain wasn't very changeable, but we know now it is completely malleable, just like the body. And if you want to get the most out of it, you need a good training plan and you need to stick to it.
Everyone knows you can prevent muscle loss with exercise, and use such activities to improve your body over time. And the same could be said for your brain.
The Brain-Body Performance Institute's website is humorously dressed up in typical life coaching mumbo jumbo. Here is my personal favourite:
...they enter into ‘self-determinism’, a critical stage in the motivation continuum which is characterised as being driven to improve current health and fitness situations
Translated into English = "they decide that they want to get a Wii Fit Plus, and they swear that they'll totally use it everyday".
Oddly (reminder, RRP $49.95), brain training programs are big business:
The trial is part of a growing trend, in which online brain-training programs in the United States have grown into a $US295 million business
Here is what you do. Develop a computer based IQish test, and then develop a training program so that participants get better at your test. You know? Exactly like Nintendo does.

Elements of the program also sound eerily similar to the embarrassment that is Brain Gym, a program which was popular in schools across the UK a few years ago.
Brain Gym is a set of perfectly good fun exercise break ideas for kids, which costs a packet and comes attached to a bizarre and entirely bogus pseudoscientific explanatory framework.
Still, this new training program is probably good for a laugh, and if I worked for SAP I'd sign up. Actually, I might first ask a few questions about this "Biological Age" testing:
Mr Taylor's trial will start in March with 60 of SAP's Melbourne staff, who will have stress hormone levels measured, undergo genetic testing, brainpower assessments and bio-age tests to measure their real age against their health age.
Genetic testing? A multinational software company is going to allow a personal trainer access to the individual results of the most personal of all homonyms of jeans. The mind boggles. Admittedly this particular study is being run with some Swinburne University researchers, so it may be that someone on the ethics committee at the university keeps some kind of cap on the amount of personal genetic information that is passed around. However, Mr Taylor's websites contain the portentous line
coming soon...
This, my friends, is a VBI (very bad idea).

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the writer of this article could benefit from some brain training himself? It seems to me its a case of, I don't understand it, so it must be rubbish!