Training Transferability

Reviews of studies focused on brain training in order to improve the cognitive abilities of adults so far revealed little or an absence of positive transfer to non-practised tasks. Lövdén et al. (2010) helped to demystify the long-held misconception about the transfer of learning: “In our view, past interpretations of transfer effects and debates on the extent to which learning transfers to untrained tasks are blurred by confusing the difference between alterations in process efficiency and the acquisition of knowledge with the issue of generality” (Lövdén, Bäckman, Lindenberger, Schaefer, & Schmiedek, 2010, p. 668). Research indicates that video games, music and sports experience facilitate the development of general cognitive skills that are broadly transferable (Green & Bavelier, 2008).

John Arden has studied the brain functions and the optimal conditions that are conducive for the rewiring of the brain. He has proposed a method of rewiring the brain, which he named FEED, as in feeding the brain. This method includes four steps (Arden, 2010, p. 17):

  • Focus;
  • Effort;
  • Effortlessness; and
  • Determination. 


The purpose of the “focus” step is to open the gate to make the brain more receptive for rewiring. Attention must be directed and concentrated to the situation, new behavior or memory that must be repeated or changed in order to activate the frontal lobes. According to Arden, focus helps to direct attention to: “what’s happening here and now, and this starts the process of neuroplasticity” (p. 18). In other words: “focus gets the ball rolling” (p. 18). This relates to Thorndike’s law of readiness to learning.


Effort that shifts attention from perception to action must be exercised to activate neuroplasticity. Effort triggers the brain that you are learning something new and that it needs to use a lot of glucose in order to establish new synaptic connection. Glucose is the energy, which fuels the brain (Arden, 2010).


To learn a new skill requires focus and effort which trigger your brain to deploy more energy to make the necessary synaptic connections. Once the brain has been rewired and the skill has been acquired, performance becomes effortless. To achieve the state of effortlessness, a newly learned skill must be practiced and honed until it becomes fairly automatic. Albert Einstein is quoted for saying “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer’’. Arden (2010) provides a vivid description of the concept of effortlessness:

“The body and the brain follow natural laws, and the natural law that applies to the concept of effortlessness is called the Law of the Conservation of Energy. This means that the things that happen are usually things that happen easily. For example, all water flows downhill. The deeper the creek, the more water flows in it. The same is true for the brain: the more you use certain brain cells together, the more you will use them in the future” (Arden, 2010, p. 19).


Although you cannot unlearn what you have learned, the connection can become weaker according to the law of disuse. However, practice will keep the brain wired to perform acquired skills. To stay in practice with over training (practice beyond successful performance), will help to maintain fluency (responding accurately, quickly and without hesitation) and automaticity (perform skills without conscious attention) (Dougherty & Johnston, 1996, p. 1-3). Determination completes the rewiring process (Arden, 2010).

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