What is Brain Training?
Brain Training programs, otherwise known as Cognitive Skills Development, are customized interventions to train and improve learning (cognitive) skills. These skills enable us to process information so that we can learn, read, remember, analyze, perform tasks, and understand cause and effect. Although cognitive skills are partially influenced by our genetic makeup, research shows that most of these skills are learned and picked up by our environment and the right stimulation.
This flexibility of the brain to respond to environmental demands is called neuroplasticity. We now know that the structure of the brain can be physically modified under intense stimulation. By strengthening specific connections or building new neural pathways where needed, we can improve our brain power. Brain Training takes advantage of this reality by offering mentally challenging procedures in each training session. As connections are built or strengthened, the brain develops more, resulting in easier learning and better performance.
What are Cognitive Skills?
“Cognitive skills” is a fancy term for brain skills or abilities. They are the core skills our brains need in order to think, learn, read, reason, remember, problem solve and pay attention. Altogether, they process any new information we receive and move this to our knowledge bank. We use this knowledge we have acquired in every area of our lives including school and work.
Cognitive skills have more to do with the mechanisms of how we carry out simple and complex tasks rather than with actual knowledge. Combined, they are what make up intelligence and predict academic and future success. As each one of these skills play an important role in processing information, if even one of these skills is slightly weak, any new information we receive will be either hard to process, remember, analyze, learn, read, and/or work with. This is how learning difficulties begin to develop.
Though cognitive skills are based on and supported by specific brain structures that dictate our actions, intelligence, and performance, the good news is that the brain is plastic! You can strengthen your brain power and potential by training weak neuronal networks.
What do weaknesses in Cognitive Skills result in?
There are seven main groups of cognitive skills. At The Brain & Learning, our training helps target and improve each of these skills. Weaknesses in each skill results in the following:
Attention: Weak focus for a long period of time or blocking out distractions. Difficulty remembering several things at once and multitasking. Careless errors and unfinished tasks.
Processing Speed: The speed by which new information is processed is slow. This skill is an important factor of IQ. Slow to read, write, and perform anything. Working under the pressure of time (e.g. tests) is stressful. Low processing speed automatically affects all cognitive skills.
Working Memory: Losing things. Not being able to hang on to multistep instructions during a task making it difficult to follow through. Difficulty with simple math and comprehension. Needing things to be repeated or retaught. Working memory decides what goes into our long-term memory. If weak, we cannot transfer information to our long-term memory easily.
Long Term Memory: Forgetting names, numbers, and facts. New knowledge cannot be absorbed. Constant revision and relearning is needed. Doing poorly on tests. Forgetting information learned in the past.
Auditory Processing: This skill helps us become better readers, speakers, writers, and listeners. If weak, reading, writing, vocabulary acquisition, and comprehension will be weak. Weak readers make weak learners. Can lead to Dyslexia.
Visual Processing: Visual memory is weak. Imagination is lacking making it difficult to understand or visualize written text. Slow reading. Weak attention to detail and copying tasks. Can lead to Dyscalculia and Dyslexia.
Logic and Reasoning: Weak problem solving, reasoning, and planning. Forming ideas and making connections with learnt information is weak. Difficulty with higher-level math. Poor creative writing.
How is Brain Training different to tutoring or schooling?
Schools deliver information and rely upon a student’s existing potential to process, retain, and apply this information. If information was not properly processed, parents feel inclined to send their kids for further teaching. Research shows that 80% of learning struggles do not occur because information was poorly presented, but because of weak cognitive skills. These weak skills make learning a difficult process no matter how many times that information is repeated. Even though tutoring may help students get through a project or test, on the long run, students will fall further behind because with every passing grade, the acquisition of new knowledge depends on previous knowledge. If a learner’s foundational knowledge is shaky, school will only prove to be harder and more challenging over the years.
Brain Training goes one step before the learning process by improving brain performance and strengthening the ability to learn. At The Brain & Learning, we address the underlying causes of learning struggles by figuring out why information is not easily picked up in the first place. If there are fundamental flaws in an individual’s cognitive skills, no amount of teaching can remedy or compensate for the problem. Therefore, if a student struggles to process and understand any information in class, tutoring is not only a temporary solution, but also a damaging one.