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# Can You Solve The Probability Two Random Walkers Meet? A Strange Way To Approximate Pi. Sunday Puzzle

Points A and B are opposite corners of a 5×5 grid.

Alice starts at point A, and each second, walks one edge right or up (if a point has two options, each direction has a 50% chance) until Alice reaches point B.

At the same time, Bob starts at point B, and each second he walks one edge left or down (if a point has two options, each direction has a 50% chance) in order to reach point A.

What is the probability Alice and Bob meet during their random walks? (Meet means occupy the same point at the same time).

What is the probability for an n by n grid? What is the limiting probability as n goes to infinity?

Watch the video for a solution.

Can You Solve The Probability Two Random Walkers Meet? A Strange Way To Approximate Pi

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Answer To The Probability Two Random Walkers Meet

The first step is to consider the possible positions of Alice and Bob after k steps. When Alice is k steps from A, Bob is also 10 – k steps from A. The only points at which they could meet are when k = 10 – k which has a solution of k = 5 steps. These points are along the diagonal of the grid as pictured below.

Now we consider the number of ways they can meet at the possible meeting points. Some points can be reached by multiple paths. Hence, we will count the number of ways to reach each of the points.

In a given step, Alice can either move up (U) or right (R). In the first step, there are two possible paths, U or R, so there is 1 way each to reach the points adjacent to point A.

In the second step, Alice can move U or R again. Thus there are 4 paths: UU, UR, RU, and RR. Notice the paths UR and RU are 2 ways to reach the same point. We can write out the number of paths by adding the numbers from adjacent vertices.

In the third step, Alice can move U or R again. There are 8 total paths. Rather than writing them out, we can count the number of paths to a point by adding the numbers in connecting edges.

At this point, we can also notice a pattern: the 8 paths after 3 steps are the paths in the binomial expansion of (U + R)3. The numbers we have been writing on the points are numbers from Pascal’s triangle, and they are equal to the binomial coefficients.

So let us go ahead and write the number of paths for the points after 4 and 5 steps. These could also be calculated as the binomial coefficients for the expansion of (U + R)4 or (U + R)5.

By symmetry, Bob has a similar distribution for the number of paths from B to the possible meeting points. As Bob can move down (D) or left (L) in a given step, these could also be calculated from the expansion of (D + L)5.

Now let’s calculate the probability.

Probability calculation

How many paths are there from A to a possible common meeting point? For a random walker, 2 possible paths for a step, so after k steps there are 2k possible paths. After 5 steps Alice has 25 paths, and so does Bob. thus, there are (25)(25) = 45 total paths they could both take after 5 steps.

Furthermore, we have determined the point that is j units up from A and 5 – j units right from A has a number of paths equal to the binomial coefficient C(5, j), where C(n, k) = n!/[k!(nk)!]. The same is true for Alice and Bob, so the number of ways that both meet at to a particular point is the square of a binomial coefficient.

As Alice and Bob can meet at any of the 6 points along the main diagonal, the total number of paths in which they could meet is the sum of the squares of the 6 binomial coefficients:

12 + 52 + 102 + 102 + 52 + 12 = 1024

This needs to be divided by the total number of paths they could take, which is 45.

1024/2056 = 63/256.

The probability they meet is approximately 24.6%.

Generalizing to n by n board

On an n by n board, Alice and Bob could possibly meet at the points that are n steps away–along the diagonal of the grid.

As each walker has 2 choices in a step, there are 2n possible paths in n steps for each walker, making for a total of (2n)(2n) = 4n paths.

The number of paths for each walker to a point also follows a binomial distribution. The point that is j units up from A and nj units right from A has a number of paths equal to the binomial coefficient C(n, j). The same is true for Alice and Bob, so the number of paths where they pick the same point is the square of each binomial coefficient. There are n + 1 points at which they could meet, and the number of ways they can meet is the sum of the squares of the binomial coefficients:

There is a nice simplification to this formula. First we use the property C(n, j) = C(n, nj), and we write the product as:

Now imagine we have a group of n women and n men. How many ways are there to form a group of n people? The above sum counts this. The first term is the number of ways to have 0 women and n men, the next term is the number of ways to have 1 woman and n – 1 men, and so on.

But we also know the number of ways to pick n people from a group of 2n is equal to C(2n, n). Thus, the two ways to count are equal, and we have derived the identity:

We now divide the number of ways they could meet by the total number of paths 4n:

Pr(meet) = C(2n,n)/4n

What happens as n goes to infinity?

The term C(2n, n) is known as the central binomial coefficient, and it has a rather interesting limit. As n goes to infinity, it is approximately 4n/√(π n).

Using this approximation, we have our probability is related to pi!

We could therefore approximate pi as follows. Simulate two random walkers on a large n by n grid.

As the probability approaches 1/√(π n), we can estimate by:

(1/Pr(meet)2n) ~ π

Before you actually try to code this, the formula has very poor accuracy. Even on a 1000×1000 grid, it will only approximate pi to 2 decimal places accurately.

Nonetheless, it’s somewhat surprising that π appears in a problem about two random walkers on a grid!

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_binomial_coefficient

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stirling%27s_approximation

http://math.stackexchange.com/questions/58560/elementary-central-binomial-coefficient-estimates

http://planetmath.org/asymptoticsofcentralbinomialcoefficient

# Brain Games: The Science of Coaching – Sports On Earth

In this era of big data, we’ve been able to advance our knowledge of every professional game, with advanced metrics now part of roster building in most front offices. Scouting is no longer a feel, but a science, and we have a fuller picture of which players truly rise above their peers. But, despite all this, we tend to rely on just two numbers to assess the best coaches and managers: wins and losses.

Team records, of course, do not tell the full story. And smart fans understand this. Thus, with this week marking the rare time of year when five major team sports converge in the news cycle — the NFL Draft on Thursday, the NBA and NHL playoffs in full swing, the MLB season blossoming and the English Premier League campaign winding down — we thought it would be a good time to audit the measures of coaching, specifically when it comes to in-game strategy.

Which sports require the most hands-on approach when it comes to managing each minute, pitch and possession? How do they compare? What are the strategies that affect the outcomes of games the most? And, of course, which bosses are the best? Let’s go to the clipboard.

The team with the fewest coaches (not including the manager) on staff is the Blue Jays with nine. The teams with the most, at 13 coaches, are the Diamondbacks and Giants, with most of the league somewhere in-between. The variations are mainly a result of some teams not carrying an assistant hitting coach (Blue Jays, Phillies and Padres), and some teams carrying more than one bullpen catcher (Indians, Tigers, Astros, Angels, Rays, Diamondbacks, Mets and Giants). Given the 25-man active roster for MLB teams prior to Sept. 1, when active rosters expand to 40, the ratio of coaches to players is roughly one coach to every two players.

Most areas of coaching expertise are compartmentalized, with pitching coaches and hitting coaches handling the bulk of the instruction. Most managers will handle key decisions during a game — when to bunt, when to call in a reliever, when to attempt a steal, when to intentionally walk a batter — with much of the micromanaging handled by bench coaches or the players themselves (for instance, pitch selection will depend on many factors, including the rapport and experience of any given battery). A catcher like Yadier Molina — who knows how to deal with a staff, where to position fielders, when to call pickoffs — is basically a manager on the field.

Managers have to make sure to protect players over a 162-game season, which means trying to avoid overburdening relievers and veteran bats. That will certainly affect in-game decision-making during the regular season, though all bets are off in the postseason. As we saw prominently last October with the use of relievers like the Indians’ Andrew Miller and the Cubs’ Aroldis Chapman, earlier and more frequent use of late-inning specialists in high-leverage situations is becoming more common.

Of the top 11 teams in MLB last season in terms of innings pitched by relievers, just one — the Dodgers — made the postseason. The Dodgers led all of baseball with 590 2/3 innings pitched out of the bullpen. The next four clubs, in order, were the Pirates, Reds, Twins and Braves.

Of the bottom five teams in terms of relievers’ innings pitched, four reached the postseason — the Giants, Cubs, Red Sox and Blue Jays. The only team in the bottom five that didn’t make the playoffs in 2016 was the White Sox (78-84). Blue Jays relievers pitched the fewest innings of any team’s relief corps last season, with 464.

A key element of this is that lower usage of the bullpen indicates starting pitchers are going deeper into games, and teams in that situation tend to have a better chance to make the postseason. But another element is the strategy involved based on pitcher-hitter matchups, past history and the grind of a 162-game season with the strain it places on bullpen arms.

There does appear to be some correlation between innings pitched and effectiveness. In 2016, the Astros’ bullpen had the lowest Fielding Independent Pitching (FIP) at 3.32, and was 10th in innings pitched at 551. Meanwhile, of the top five teams in reliever FIP last season, only the Dodgers were in the top nine in terms of innings pitched.

The Pirates are among the more aggressive — and successful — teams in the Majors at employing shifts. (Getty Images)

There’s no doubt that defensive shifts have proliferated in MLB during this decade: During the 2010 season, 3,323 batters faced a defensive shift, per Fangraphs. By last season, that number had soared to 34,801 (a 947 percent increase). But how does that translate into the games themselves?

“It’s the analysts’ process, where they take the data and they make adjustments based on what they see based on the data,” Pirates general manager Neal Huntington told Sports on Earth. “Then it’s our advance scouts that make adjustments based on what they’re seeing in their current look. It’s our coaches going through the process, and are they comfortable with where we are? Then it’s an in-game adjustment with [catcher Francisco Cervelli] and the pitcher and the infielder and the outfielder, with what they’re seeing.

“It’s not like there’s one mandate that comes out of the computer that, ‘This is where you’re going to stand.’ It’s a six-person process.”

While it’s evident that defensive shifts have exploded in usage, it’s also clear that teams are still grappling with how often to use them, as well as what kind of shifts to deploy.

The Marlins and Pirates were among the top 12 teams who used non-traditional defensive shifts most frequently in 2016. A “non-traditional” shift, per Baseball Info Solutions, is one involving positioning other than the “Ted Williams shift” — having three infielders on one side of the infield — or “partial Ted Williams shift,” where two players are significantly out of position at one time, including a second baseman in short right field.

Miami, 26th in total number of shifts (of any kind) last season, deployed a non-traditional shift against 298 batters in 2016, second only to Oakland’s 299. Pittsburgh employed a non-traditional shift against 234 batters last season.

But the two clubs have seen significantly different results: opponents’ batting average on balls in play (BABIP) when being shifted against by the Marlins was .289, whereas the BABIP against Pirates’ non-traditional shifts was .244. Both clubs were more successful than the MLB average BABIP allowed against non-traditional shifts, which was .293.

The Marlins’ utilization of non-traditional shifts jumped 35 percent from 2015 to 2016. But the opponents’ success rate increased, as well — in 2015, opponents’ BABIP was just .221 against Miami in non-traditional shift situations, 68 points lower than last season. Though admittedly a small sample size, that could indicate the club is still wrestling with mastering shift strategy.

“It was one of those things we looked into this winter,” said Marlins manager Don Mattingly. “As much as anything, the bottom line of it isn’t about how much you shift or how much you don’t, it’s really about turning ground balls into outs.”

The Pirates went in the opposite direction with respect to non-traditional shifts from 2015-16. In ’16, they deployed non-traditional shifts against 59 fewer batters than they did the prior season and the BABIP of Pittsburgh’s opponents in those situations also went down significantly, from .273 to .244. Meanwhile, the Pirates moved from 27th in the Majors with 971 traditional shifts in 2015, to fourth last season with 1,483, signaling a significant change in strategy.

“We have to be cognizant of when the shift is beat,” said Huntington. “The challenge becomes remembering the several hundred other times they hit the ball right into the shift and [infielder] Josh Harrison’s standing in a spot that conventional wisdom wouldn’t have him standing in, and he makes a play and he makes it look really easy.”

Other teams have also drastically increased the number of traditional shifts they utilize. One of these clubs is the Cardinals, whose use of traditional shifts jumped 161 percent from 2015 to ’16, from 312 instances to 813. In 2015, opponents hit .295 on balls in play against the shift, and last season, .296 (MLB average in 2015 was .290, and last season it was .298).

“Some of it has to do with the more information we get,” Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. “Getting buy-in from our pitchers, too, and showing them and continuing to educate them on, ‘Here’s what we see. Here’s what the information tells us. How comfortable do you feel?’ If the pitchers don’t feel comfortable with it, we’re going to shy away. When they do, we’re going to take advantage of it.”

Early on, some Cardinals pitchers were hesitant when it came to defensive shifts, and as Matheny said, pitcher buy-in with this process is paramount. As that increased, so has the number of Cardinals defensive shifts. The number of non-traditional shifts St. Louis used also increased moderately from 2015 — from 240 to 276 — but, notably, the BABIP shot up from .204 to .348.

2) Quality, not quantity

The World Series champion Cubs were, by far, the most successful team in the Majors when it came to deploying defensive shifts in 2016. Opponents’ BABIP against shifts (both traditional and non-traditional) put on by Chicago was .239; the American League champion Indians were second, at .272.

The Cubs also shifted against the fewest batters in all of baseball last season: 603 (299 of which were non-traditional shifts).

Bench coach Dave Martinez handles the bulk of the defensive positioning duties and said that the Cubs will continue doing what they did last year. Martinez also echoed what the Rockies’ Cole said about player input.

“In-game, you see how guys are swinging the bats, so we might move them, and it depends on the wind here [at Wrigley Field]” Martinez said. “You might move them a few more steps back, or cover the lines more. For the most part, those guys do a great job. Last year, we followed [what they suggested] and it worked.”

The Cubs, under the guidance of manager Joe Maddon, are also known for unorthodox defensive strategy, such as moving a pitcher into the outfield or having first baseman Anthony Rizzo crash in hard on an opposing hitter’s bunt attempt while the second baseman covers first base. The process has even involved Rizzo trading his first baseman’s glove for a middle-infielder’s glove.

“It’s starting to catch on,” Martinez said. “It won’t be long before everybody does what we do with the bunt plays where we have Rizzo [crash in towards the plate].”

As teams around baseball continue to wrestle with strategy on defensive shifts, working to refine the process and achieve better results, executives, managers and coaches alike appear to share one common kernel of wisdom behind all of those efforts.

“This is still a game played by human beings, and there are times the shift will not work,” Huntington said. “The reason you shift is the probability tells you this is where he’s going to hit the ball, but occasionally, it does work against you.

“That’s the challenge: Do you feel better when a play’s not made conventionally, because, well, that’s just where you’re supposed to play? Or do you feel better when you make a play that nobody realizes you made?”

No matter what, the utilization of shifts is not only one of the biggest in-game management strategies that affects outcomes, but one that we can assess with raw data to determine success or failure.

— By Manny Randhawa

With Steve Kerr’s recent health problems, the Warriors will look to their coaching depth to help. (Getty Images)

Roster size vs. number of coaches is approximately 3-to-1 or 2-to-1. Most NBA coaching staffs comprise of the head coach and 5-7 assistants in various roles. For example, the Spurs have employed Gregg Popovich as their head coach for 20 full seasons (plus an interim stint during the 1996-97 season). This season, their coaching staff included six assistant coaches (Ettore Messina, Ime Udoka, James Borrego, Chip Engelland, Becky Hammon and Will Hardy). The two teams who have met in the NBA Finals the previous two seasons — the Cavaliers and Warriors — have similar-sized staffs as well.

The Warriors have Steve Kerr as their head coach along with three assistant coaches (Ron Adams, Mike Brown and Jarron Collins) and three assistant coaches for player development (Bruce Fraser, Willie Green and Chris DeMarco). That coaching depth will be tested soon, as lingering back issues could force Kerr to miss the entirety of the playoffs.

The Cavaliers are led by Tyronn Lue, who has five assistant coaches (Jim Boylan, Larry Drew, James Posey, Phil Handy and Mike Longabardi) on his staff. Teams often employ player development coaches who are not listed on the official coaching staff. For example, Steve Nash is a player development consultant for the Warriors and has worked with extensively with Kevin Durant and other players on the roster. Tim Duncan has worked with the Spurs this season. His title is less defined. Popovich once jokingly called him the “coach of whatever he feels like.”

The league modified its schedule this season to scale back situations where teams play four games in five nights, but teams are still weary about how much their star players play throughout the season. Here’s a look at all 30 teams’ records this season without a day’s rest between games (i.e. the second night of a back-to-back). The top records belong to the top three teams in the West: Houston (13-3), Golden State (13-4) and San Antonio (12-4). The worst teams are three teams that missed the playoffs this season: Dallas (3-13), Detroit (3-14) and Brooklyn (1-14). Another impact of scheduling is that one would think older rosters might be more susceptible to losses on the second half of back-to-backs, but that doesn’t appear to be the case either. Per RealGM, the average age of Houston’s roster is 26.4, the Warriors have an average age of 28.1, the Spurs 29.1. All of them were elite teams without any rest this season. Scheduling doesn’t affect a team’s performance so much as simply having a roster full of talented players.

1) Managing minutes

One of the ways for coaches to impact outcomes of games is to maximize optimal five-man lineups and manage their rosters to ensure that there is at least one superstar on the floor at all times. Per NBA.com, among lineups that played at least 300 minutes, the best five-man lineup in terms of net rating in the league belonged to the Warriors’ unit of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Zaza Pachulia, who outscored opponents by 23.1 points per 100 possessions. Kerr’s task in Golden State might sound simple, but coaches with multiple superstars have to ensure that their superstars are on the floor at all times. The Warriors are a good example for this. This season, Curry played 2,638 total minutes, Thompson played 2,649 minutes and Durant logged 2,070 minutes. Durant missed the most time with injury, so if we look at Curry and Thompson’s minutes, they spent 1,773 minutes on the floor together, which means approximately 67 percent of the time they played, the two were on the floor together. The Warriors outscored opponents by 19.0 points per 100 possessions when Curry and Thompson were on the court together. For NBA coaches, success in the regular season is tied to how well they can keep their stars on the floor, and find the best five-man lineups and use them with frequency.

In-game and in-series adjustments during the playoffs is where head coaches are most scrutinized, though. Kerr established himself as a tactician in the 2014-15 playoffs when the Warriors were down 2-1 to the Grizzlies, and he started Game 4 by having starting center Andrew Bogut defend Tony Allen — a below-average shooter on the perimeter — which allowed Bogut to act as a roamer on defense, and ignited the team to three straight wins to take the series. In the NBA Finals against the Cavs, the Warriors were down 2-1 once again when Kerr removed Bogut from the starting lineup and went with a smaller starting five with Andre Iguodala. The move also triggered three straight wins for the Warriors and the championship that year. (You could argue that a lack of adjustment cost Golden State the title last year, when LeBron James and Kyrie Irving were eating the Warriors alive in Games 5-7).

2) Out-of-timeout possessions

Teams this season averaged between 93 to 103 offensive possessions per game. Even if a coach can positively contribute to, say, three offensive possessions per game out of timeouts, that’s 246 offensive possessions over the course of 82 games. Synergy Sports provided some data on each team’s points-per-timeout last season. Kevin McHale, who was coach of the Rockets at the time, was bottom of the list at 0.50 points per possession. At the top was Alvin Gentry of the Pelicans, averaging 0.976 points per possession. Using those metrics as an example, over a course of an entire season, assuming the 246 offensive possessions out of timeouts, McHale’s teams would have 123 points over those possessions, compared to 240 points for Gentry. The spread between those numbers would have an incremental impact on a team’s win total.

Image via Synergy Sports

— By Alex Wong

Blitz packages and third-down plays are among the biggest decisions an NFL coach can make. (Getty Images)

The ratio of players to coaches can be anywhere from 2-to-1 to 3-to-1. The Patriots have a staff of 18, but the gameday coaching falls heaviest on the shoulders of Bill Belichick, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, defensive coordinator Matt Patricia and special teams coach Joe Judge. Not that assistants don’t have their own influence after kickoff, but with an active gameday roster of 46 and three or four coaches doing the heaviest lifting, then maybe the “real” ratio is closer to 7.5-to-1, or 15-to-1. In the broadest terms, it’s one head coach and 46 active players.

Not that 18 is the standard-sized staff. The Seahawks have 26 coaches. Pete Carroll even has two assistant head coaches: Tom Cable and the recently promoted Michael Barrow. There are more coaches in Seattle to bear the load, but perhaps the single-minded view of the Pats also adds to their successful model; it’s just hard to argue that one way is good and one way is bad because Belichick and Carroll are two of the most successful coaches since 2012.

The smallest current staff belongs to the Steelers, where there are 17 coaches, led by Mike Tomlin. The largest staff is under another veteran head coach, Andy Reid, who has a staff of 29 in Kansas City. Since taking over a 2-14 team four seasons ago, Reid has gone 43-21 with three playoff appearances. Over those same four seasons, Tomlin is 40-24, also with three postseason trips.

Head coaches who do play-calling on game day:

Ben McAdoo, Giants (offense) Mike McCarthy, Packers (offense) Sean Payton, Saints (offense) Bruce Arians, Cardinals (offense) Hue Jackson, Browns (offense) Andy Reid, Chiefs (offense) Sean McVay, Rams (offense) Adam Gase, Dolphins (offense) Mike Zimmer, Vikings (defense) Kyle Shanahan, 49ers (offense)

McAdoo was promoted by the Giants from offensive coordinator to head coach and understandably didn’t want to hand over the job of calling plays to someone else. This is despite the fact that New York, like most teams on this list, has someone with the title of offensive coordinator: Mike Sullivan. The Giants were 26th in scoring and 25th in total yards last season and McAdoo won’t say if he’ll give up play-calling duties in 2017.

Of course, the most important play-caller on any NFL team might be the quarterback. As Belichick said this March, the biggest thing Tom Brady does for the Patriots is getting them out of a bad play call once he recognizes the defensive alignments before the snap. Like Molina on the St. Louis Cardinals, he’s the field manager.

The NFL has by far the fewest games of any professional American sport. Because of the number of games and preparation that can be as short as four days and up to two weeks between games, coaching becomes quite concentrated and preparation is key. Coaches can lay out offensive “blueprints” to open every game based on their research and film study leading up to the game, but even those may last two-to-three series at most. Now consider what a “halftime adjustment” basically is: It’s that one week of film study and preparation boiled down to basically trying to accomplish the same task in 15 minutes.

A study by Pro Football Focus in 2013 showed that scoring went down on Thursday Night Football 0.68 touchdowns per game on average, as teams often had just three days to prepare and the play has always seemed noticeably sloppy. A 2014 study by Timothy Vaughan showed the wide variance of outcomes on TNF, noting that the first five Thursday games of that season had ended in a blowout; however, six of the next 12 TNF games were decided by six points or less. Home teams also win at a higher rate on Thursday than they do on all other days, possibly due to the quick turnaround for travel.

Pete Carroll is 4-1 on Thursday, with all four wins coming by double digits. The Ravens are 6-1 on Thursday under John Harbaugh. Meanwhile, Andy Reid is an incredible 16-2 (.888 winning percentage) following a bye week. That’s better than Belichick’s 12-5 record following a bye, including a 31-24 home loss to the Seahawks last season.

Football has to be the most coach-designed major American sport, and for the players it mostly comes down to execution. That’s why the NFL Scouting Combine matters so much to these coaches and the draft is so important. Sometimes it’s just about finding the players who are physically capable rather than the ones who succeeded in systems that don’t translate to the NFL. Coaches don’t care if a receiver is gifted at making up a route; coaches care if he can run the exact route they game-planned, can memorize the plays and execute them to perfection. Compare that to basketball where freelancing and improvisation in a fast break is one of the most valuable skills to possess.

In 2016, teams ran an average of 57.4 offensive plays per game on the low end (Dolphins) to 69.1 (Saints) on the high end. New Orleans played an NFL-high 2,112 offensive and defensive plays last season, while the Lions ran an NFL-low 1,944 plays.

In general, the gap does not seem that wide, but in those 10-11 extra plays per game, a lot could happen. Here’s what coaches can control:

1) Clock management

Perhaps every coach has been criticized at some point for clock management, but one head coach who took it very seriously was Tampa Bay’s Dirk Koetter. After the Bucs promoted Koetter in 2016, he gave offensive assistant Andrew Weidinger a new position: “game management.” Weidinger’s job is to manage the clock and prepare for late-game situations and challenges. Tampa Bay improved from 26th in time of possession in 2015 to eight in 2016. That’s an extra two minutes of possession per game.

Four of the top five teams in TOP made the playoffs, while the bottom three — 49ers, Browns, Bears — are also the top three teams picking in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Eagles went from last in TOP in 2015 under Chip Kelly (25:51) to first in 2016 under Doug Pederson (32:31), giving them almost six-and-a-half extra minutes per game, though they actually scored 10 fewer total points under Pederson for the season.

2) Third-down stops

Perhaps no stat is more widely attributed to play-calling than third-down conversions and stops because of how much it impacts the outcome of a game.

Last season, the Saints were first in the NFL in third-and fourth-down conversion rates: 48.6 percent on third and 13 of 15 on fourth. Rounding out the top five offenses were the Packers, Titans, Patriot and Redskins. The bottom five in third-down conversions, starting with 32 and working upward: Rams, Broncos, 49ers, Jaguars and Giants.

The top five defenses in stops on third down: the Bucs, Ravens, Giants, Dolphins and Broncos. The most surprising is that Tampa Bay finished first in that category (34.4 percent) despite finishing 15th in points allowed and 23rd in yards allowed. Defensive coordinator Mike Smith, former head coach of the Falcons, did draw some interviews and interest in January for head coaching positions with other teams.

The worst, starting with 32, were: Washington, the Lions, Browns, 49ers and Saints.

So which coaching staffs were the best on both sides of the ball? Tampa Bay, Tennessee and New England were the only teams in the NFL last season to finish in the top seven in both offense and defense for percentage of third-down conversions and stops. Of course, the Pats won a title. Keep an eye on the Bucs and Titans in 2017. Cleveland and San Francisco were the only teams to finish in the cellar in both rankings.

3) Going all-in

Another thing that coaching can often be accountable for is how much pressure is being applied to the quarterback. This is because defensive alignments and blitz packages are often called out by coaches, though defensive leaders can still make adjustments if they notice a gap in the offensive alignment. Per Football Outsiders, the Broncos led the NFL in pressure in 2016 at 31.8 percent. Denver finished first in passing yards allowed, passing touchdowns allowed and net yards per pass attempt, and sacked the quarterback 42 times. Rounding out the top five were the Cardinals, Eagles, Vikings and Dolphins.

The worst team in the NFL at pressuring the QB in 2016 was the Colts, who did so on just 18 percent of drop-backs. They have somehow decided to hold steady with head coach Chuck Pagano and defensive coordinator Ted Monachino anyway.

— By Kenneth Arthur

John Tortorella of the Blue Jackets has made adjustments to his coaching style over the years. (Getty Images)

Only a fraction of a team’s coaching staff is stationed on a bench during a game. Typically, a head coach will have two assistants on the bench with him, but that’s not set in stone. Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella, for instance, prefers to have just one assistant on the bench with him (as an uninformed reporter learned the hard way some years back). But a team’s overall coaching staff is much larger than that. The Rangers’ staff — in addition to head coach Alain Vigneault — has an associate coach, two assistants (one in the press box who relays in-game observations during intermissions), a goaltending coach, a video coach, a video assistant, a skills coach and a skills consultant.

A head coach may have to make any number of decisions during the game: choosing whether to challenge a goal (with the assistance of his video team), or whether to call a timeout after an icing when his team is gassed, or when to pull his goalie, or which players to use in a shootout. There’s also work to be done between periods, from speaking to his team to watching video. And, of course, coaches communicate with their team throughout the game, offering criticism, or encouragement, or instructions, or whatever else is needed.

A coach may consider a team’s opponent when deciding on the last couple of spots in the lineup for a given game. Against a physical opponent, for instance, he may opt for a little more so-called sandpaper to better match up. And games on back-to-back nights may mean tapping the team’s starting goalie for one game and the backup goalie for the other. This season has also brought unique challenges, because of a schedule condensed by the preseason World Cup of Hockey and the new mandatory bye weeks. Tortorella killed off the Blue Jackets’ morning skate on game days (something he’d wanted to do in previous jobs), while per the Toronto Star, other teams are mixing in more optional practices or telling players who log big minutes to stay away from the rink as much as possible, with some teams making the morning skate optional.

This is a deceptively complex aspect of the game that only looks routine and machine-like because of the skill and preparation of all involved. In a nutshell, bench management involves not just setting the lines, but adjusting them when needed and deploying them at the right times.

There’s considerable strategy involved: A coach may want to get certain defensemen on the ice when an opponent’s most dangerous scorer is on the ice. Similarly, a coach might want to protect his own big scorer from shifts against an opponent’s best defenders. (The visiting team’s coach must decide first who to put on the ice prior to a face-off, but once the puck drops, lines can be changed on the fly.) Double-shifting a star might throw off an opponent looking to match up lines, but it also complicates things on the other end. And a coach may instead want to dictate the tone or pace by choosing a certain combination of players. Which is to say, there’s a complex calculus involved in bench management.

There’s also the matter of making sure the right players get the right amount of ice time. In a 2007 interview, then-Flames coach Mike Keenan spoke about Scott Bowman, a firm believer that ice time should be based on merit:

“Bowman was the master coach. What I learned from him was, and it may sound simple, it’s essential to have the right people on the ice at the right time. Ask someone how long a hockey game is, and most everyone will say 60 minutes. But from a coaching perspective, it’s 720 minutes — that’s six players, or positions, on each side, and two teams over 60 minutes. What you do as a coach, how you [apportion] those minutes, is essential.”

“You try to get your best offensive player away from a particular matchup, even for one shift,” said Eddie Olczyk, an NBC analyst and former NHL player and coach, in 2015. “One shift can change everything.”

— By Joe DeLessio

Jurgen Klopp is considered one of the smartest strategists in the English Premier League. (Getty Images)

The ratio in club soccer is usually 5-to-1 between senior team players and senior team coaches. It can be difficult to figure out the exact number of coaches on a given English Premier League team. These clubs are sprawling organizations, with many having senior, youth and women’s squads. Between all that, it isn’t uncommon for a club to have more than 100 staff members dedicated to helping the team on the pitch, from coaches to trainers to fitness specialists to data analysts.

Generally, though, for senior teams there are five or so coaches: a manager, assistant manager, a couple first-team coaches and a goalkeeper coach. Those are the people in charge of how the players train and what tactics a team will use in each match, with the latter responsibilities falling primarily on the manager and assistant manager.

It’s important to discern the difference between a manager and a coach, even if they’re subtle, and some duties overlap. In general, the manager and assistant manager are focused on the bigger picture in terms of both tactics and talent acquisition. The manager is more akin to a head coach/general manager. By contrast, coaches primarily work with players in training. Which isn’t to suggest coaches won’t have a say in tactics, it’s just the manager’s’ philosophy that will be followed on the pitch.

During matches, the managerial philosophy differs greatly from person to person. Most managers are focused on the overall strategy of the match during the 90 minutes and take little time to interact with or instruct individual players during games, such as Arsene Wenger of Arsenal. Rarely will you see him huddling with a player on the bench. Instead, his assistant manager, Steve Bould, takes on the task.

But someone like Jurgen Klopp of Liverpool is a bit different. Many times in a Liverpool match a Reds player will trot to the sideline to consult with Klopp before running on the pitch. There is no set way these clubs are run, but generally the higher you climb up the coaching ladder, the less work you’ll be doing coaching individuals — on matchday, at least.

One thing that separates domestic league competitions in club soccer from competitions in other sports is the evenness of the schedule. In the Premier League, every season lasts 38 matches with each club playing a home-and-home with every club. Every club plays every club once between August and December, and once more between January and May.

Do you rest some players during a Premier League match so they’ll be fit enough to play in the Champions League, or do you risk fatigue and injury and let your best players go in both? This system leads to the bigger clubs trotting out youth or marginal squad players for less important competitions such as the League Cup.

It’s of the utmost importance that managers prioritize their competitions. For example, in 2015 West Ham manager Slaven Bilic opted to field a weak side early in the Europa League, realizing that progressing further in the competition would hinder their Premier League progress. The Hammer fell to a little known Romanian team in the qualifying round, sparing them six additional fixtures in the fall and possibly more in the spring. The Hammers went on to finish a respectable seventh in the league.

Conversely, a team could opt to prioritize European competitions over the Premier League. In 2012, Chelsea was far out the running for the top four in the EPL, which would give them a bid into the next season’s Champions League. Without a realistic path to the top four in the league, caretaker manager Roberto Di Matteo put his focus on the current Champions League campaign. The Blues won an historic European title and automatically qualified for the next one.

# The best adventure games – PC Gamer

We’ve rummaged through the archives to evaluate the best stories, the most memorable characters, and the most satisfying puzzles on a quest to decide which PC adventure games are the very best. We haven’t strictly defined the genrewe’ve included traditional point-and-clicks as well as new formsbut as a general rule these are exploration, puzzle, and story-driven games that value atmosphere, dialogue, and discovery over action or stats.

The bulk of this list was written by professional adventure game connoisseur Richard Cobbett in 2016, though as of April 2017, the PC Gamer staff has tossed a few newer games into the great adventure pile. There’s enough adventuring here, spread across four pages, to last you a year… or maybe more.

We’ll continue to update this list with new and old games as the resurging genre continues to deliver hits.

Released: 1992 | Developer LucasArts | Buy it: GOG, Steam

As far as most adventure gamers are concerned, the fourth Indiana Jones film came out in 1992. And then there were no more. Fate of Atlantis not only gave Indy an adventure worth a thousand crystal skulls, but offered players three distinct ways to experience itwith wits, fists, or accompanied by Sophia Hapgood, psychic turned treasure hunter. The adventure went all over the world, all beautifully painted in Lucasarts classic style, and what it lacked in big cinematic set-pieces, it more than made up in 2D action. Fate of Atlantis casts Indy as the thinker’s action hero.

Quote: “We’re not dating Jones; this is not a date! If it was a date, I would’ve stood you up!”

Released: 2017 | Developer: No Code | Buy it: GOG, Steam, Humble Store

For those who lust after old hardwarethe satisfying click of mechanical keyboards, the magnetic buzz and whirs of a CRT, the hot breath of a stranger standing right behind you in an empty housethen Stories Untold is a must. It features four episodes of sci-fi horror where your primary interactions are centered around a set of old hardware. In the first episode, you sit at a desk and play and old horror text adventure. But soon, the reason you can see the room around you and how the text adventure relates to that becomes clear. Each subsequent level has its own twist (or two) on the setting and old electronics within, making for some of the most unique, eerie adventure gaming out there.

Quote: Someone else is in the house. This cant be.

Released: 2015 |Developer: Dontnod Entertainment | Buy it: Steam

Life is Strange was one of the biggest surprises of the last few yearsa Telltale style episodic game that stood alone, and a clever gimmick backed up by tremendous heart. Its the story of a nervous girl who discovers she has the power to rewind time, right on the edge of a disaster about to hit her town. Yet the drama really comes from her relationships, from the genuinely difficult choices to make, and the clunkily-written but still efficient coming of age story at its heart.

Released: 2015 | Developer: Frictional Games | Buy it: GOG, Steam, Humble Store

Any time you create something as notable as Amnesia: The Dark Descent (aka Screaming YouTube Payday), theres going to be the lingering questionOK, so what else have you got? Frictional responded with Soma, building on its horror heritage, but putting the scares into an endlessly more complex, beautiful, and somehow even more claustrophobic environment. Unlike a lot of recent horror, it avoids an over-reliance on jump-scares and repeated gimmicks where possible, and soon reveals it has more to it than just scares. Its a solid bit of SF thatll still make you want to hide behind the sofa. As long as your sofa is in the same room as your PC, which it probably isnt.

Quote: I think its back! Keep your eyes peeled!

Released: 2015 | Developer: Sam Barlow | Buy it: GOG, Steam, Humble Store

Her Story has now won enough awards for creator Sam Barlow to melt them all down and create some kind of towering super-award, and not without reason. Her Story isnt the only good FMV game ever made, despite what some will say, but it is a genuinely brilliant attempt to use the format for the kind of interactions it was created to offer, instead of bending over backwards to make it do things it never should have been asked to in the first place. Its a bit of a shame that what begins as a murder mystery soon takes a swerve into a more fantastical character study, and that your purpose in the game isnt quite what it seems. Even so, digging through the tale by searching for keywords and clips and piecing together the order for yourself is as compelling as any detective fiction.

Quote: You have no murder weapon. You have nothing. And all these stories weve been telling each other? Just that. Stories.

Released: 1999 |Developer: Perfect Entertainment

The third Discworld game finally shed its predecessors fixation with being as much Python as Pratchett. An inspired take on Ankh-Morpork full of HP Lovecraft parodies, noir monologues and detectiving in a world of trolls, vampires and werewolves, it worked beautifully, and even had some dialogue and other input from the man himself.

Quote: Ive had some bad days since I started work as a private investigator. But Ive never woken up dead before.

Released: 1996 | Developer: Burst | Buy it: GOG, Steam

Christopher Lloyd, as Drew Blanc, explores a saccharine land of kiddy cartoons that takes a hard right into BDSM cows, evil clowns popping bunny balloons in the eye, and Tim Curry being… well, Tim Curry. Just pity the translators. Much of the game is about finding matching pairs of words to build a machine: SUGAR and SPICE for instance, and they werent allowed to change any.

Quote: I have one mother of a deadline hanging over my head… and apparently a lifetime of therapy to look forward to.

Released: 2011 | Developer: Freebird Games | Buy it: GOG, Steam, Humble Store

Something adventures do better than any other genre is the more thoughtful story, with no need to be broken up every five minutes to punch a demon or race a car. To the Moon is one of the best recent examples, focusing on regret and hope and lost memories in reverse in an anachronistic order. Built in RPG Maker but still an adventure at its soul, its a great mystery, a sombre story, and a very moving experience.

Quote: Hes got just a day or two left. Thats plenty of time.

Released: 2016 | Developer: Campo Santo | Buy it: GOG, Steam

Expectations were high for Telltales Walking Dead creators when they founded their new company, and they were met with this fascinatingly low-key follow-up. No zombies. No axe-wielding psychopaths. Just the story of a man, Henry, escaping his life by taking a job watching for fires in Wyoming, and the relationship he develops with his boss, Delilah. At least, to begin with. Some of the mystery that follows is opinion-splitting material, but Campo Santo nails both the loneliness and the camaraderie of being vulnerable and isolated in even mostly-safe situations. Even when the thriller part fades, the exquisite character piece remains.

Quote: Im back at My Shitty Boss Is Going To Get Me Killed Hill.

Released: 2013 | Developer: The Fullbright Company | Buy it: GOG, Steam, Humble Store

The touching background story of young love and sexual identity is arguably the most talked about part, but its digging through the artifacts of a strange time not so long ago that makes this less an adventure game than time travel. A very absorbing take on the genre.

Quote: I dont want Mom or Dad… anyone… to know…

See the article here:
The best adventure games – PC Gamer

# Do brain games make you smarter, or just better at brain games? – Uncommon Wisdom Daily

“Improve cognitive abilities, such as memory and concentration, with sleek, fun and addictive games designed by neuroscientists.”

These are the types of claims youll hear from developers of brain games. People are buying them, too. The games and the promises.

In fact, “brain training” has become a billion-dollar industry!

The concept of using games to train your brain can sound pretty appealing. You use a fun and challenging app on your phone or computer. And you can not only pass the time, but also become smarter in the meantime.

Sounds too good to be true, right?

Thats because it might be.

Brain Games, Not Gains

Unfortunately, current research doesnt support many of the claims made for brain games. Thats according to a new study published in the science journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

“Our findings and previous studies confirm theres very little evidence these types of games can improve your life in a meaningful way,” said Wally Boot. Dr. Boot is an expert on age-related cognitive decline at Florida State University.

Millions of people around the world typically spend more than \$100 a year and hundreds of hours “training their brains.” So, this is a big finding from the FSU research team.

The theory behind most brain games is that they can improve your working memory.

“Working memory” is the thinking skill that focuses on memory-in-action. That is, your ability to remember and use relevant information while youre in the middle of an activity.

Working memory helps you hold on to information long enough to use it. Its crucial to concentration, and can affect how well you learn something.

The FSU team examined whether improving our working memory would translate to better performance on other tasks. Or, as the researchers called it, “far transfer.”

All study participants were given information they needed to juggle to solve problems.

Researchers tested whether the games enhanced players working memory. They also looked at whether it, in turn, improved other mental abilities. (Reasoning, memory and processing speed.)

There was some good news. But for most who want to use these games to stay sharp, its probably not enough.

As Neil Charness, lead author of the study, explains:

“Its possible to train people to become very good at tasks that you would normally consider general working memory tasks: memorizing 70, 80, even 100 digits.

“But these skills tend to be very specific and not show a lot of transfer. The thing that seniors in particular should be concerned about is, if I can get very good at crossword puzzles, is that going to help me remember where my keys are?

“And the answer is probably no.”

Adding to a consensus among other published studies is this

Brain-training games arent improving your cognitive skills, but rather just making you better at the games themselves.

So, its not surprising then that the brain-game industry has recently come under legal fire. Some companies are facing fines as high as \$50 million for false advertising.

Have you ever used brain games before? Were you able to improve your memory beyond getting better at playing the games? Perhaps you are thinking about trying these brain-training exercises anyway. Does this new research change your mind at all? Please let us know in the comments section.

Journal Reference: Dustin J. Souders, Walter R. Boot, Kenneth Blocker, Thomas Vitale, Nelson A. Roque, Neil Charness. Evidence for Narrow Transfer after Short-Term Cognitive Training in Older Adults. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, 2017; 9 DOI: 10.3389/fnagi.2017.00041

# Just when you thought brain games made you smarter – The Siasat Daily

Washington: You may want to be skeptical of ads declaring you can rev up your brains performance by challenging it with products from the growing brain-training industry, according to a recent study.

The team of Florida State University researchers found no evidence that the games increased overall cognitive abilities.

Our findings and previous studies confirm theres very little evidence these types of games can improve your life in a meaningful way, said Researcher Wally Boot, an expert on age-related cognitive decline.

Researcher Neil Charness said an increasing number of people believe brain training helps protect them against memory loss or cognitive disorders.

Brain challenges like crossword games are a popular approach, especially among baby boomers, as a way to try to protect cognition, Charness noted.

That popularity has turned the brain-training industry into a billion-dollar business. Brain games are available online and through mobile apps that typically sell for about 15 dollars a month or 300 dollars for lifetime memberships. But advertising for this rapidly growing business sector has sometimes used inflated claims. The Federal Trade Commission fined one brain-training company 50 million dollars for false advertising, which was later lowered to 2 million dollars.

More companies are beginning to be fined for these types of inflated claims and thats a good thing, Boot said. These exaggerated claims are not consistent with the conclusions of our latest study.

The FSU teams study focused on whether brain games could boost the working memory needed for a variety of tasks. In their study, they set up one group of people to play a specially designed brain-training video game called Mind Frontiers, while another group of players performed crossword games or number puzzles.

All players were given lots of information they needed to juggle to solve problems. Researchers tested whether the games enhanced players working memory and consequently improved other mental abilities, such as reasoning, memory and processing speed.

Thats the theory behind many brain games: If you improve overall working memory, which is fundamental to so much of what we do every day, then you can enhance performance in many areas of your life.

The team examined whether improving working memory would translate to better performance on other tasks or as the researchers called it: far transfer.

Its possible to train people to become very good at tasks that you would normally consider general working memory tasks: memorizing 70, 80, even 100 digits, Charness said. But these skills tend to be very specific and not show a lot of transfer. The thing that seniors in particular should be concerned about is, if I can get very good at crossword puzzles, is that going to help me remember where my keys are? And the answer is probably no.

Charness noted that other research finds aerobic exercise, rather than mental exercise, is great for your brain. Physical exercise can actually cause beneficial structural changes in the brain and boost its function. He predicts exer-gaming, which combines exercise with brain games, will increase in popularity in the 21st century.

# Apr 20, 2017 in Culture: Puyo Puyo Tetris is puzzle game with personality – Boise State University The Arbiter Online

With the advent of smartphones and portable tablets, games like Candy Crush have become the norm for most casual gamers. Many people can attest to playing a round or two of these games to kill some time between their daily responsibilities. Since the introduction of the Game Boy back in 1989, the fact that such simple, yet addicting games are so mainstream is both goodbecause theyre easy to learnand badbecause they are often not that deep of an experience.

However, developers at Sega might have come up with a game that bridges the best of casual and competitive gaming into one unique and hectic experience. Puyo Puyo Tetris is an upcoming game set to be released on April 25 for the PS4 and Nintendo Switch that combines two titans of the puzzle gaming world into one game. One of those games is Tetris, which hardly needs any introduction, as its regarded to be the best selling videogame of all time. And the other is Puyo Puyo, a puzzle game well established in Japan, but has only seen a few sparse releases in the U.S.

Potential players dont need to worry, though, as the rules of Puyo Puyo are just as easy to learn as the ones in Tetris. Little blobs of color will drop down in pairs of twos, each with five colors (red, yellow, blue, green and purple). The player will pile them up to match colors; when four or more colors match, those blobs will disappear and points will be scored. This gameplay fits in very well with Tetris and captures that easy to learn, hard to master aspect of the best puzzle games.

Single player in Puyo Puyo Tetris is good for those short bursts of fun that are standard for any puzzle game, but the best part of this game involves the multiplayer modes. Some modes will have some players playing Puyo Puyo, while the others play Tetris, another will have all players swapping between Puyo Puyo and Tetris every few seconds and one mode will have players playing a mix of the two games simultaneously. The better one player doesclearing more lines and colorsthe more obstacles will be thrown towards opponents. Its a fast paced and competitive last-man-standing environment that will have friends and rivals begging for just one more round.

While the gameplay is solid and addicting, what really sets Puyo Puyo Tetris apart is its presentation. This game goes above and beyond whats normally needed in a puzzle game. It has multiple high-energy songs that play during gameplay, including an awesome rendition of the well known Tetris theme. The graphics are bright and colorful, with many different backdrops players can choose from. The game even has characters you play as, and theyre wacky and uniqueits unreal how much personality is put into a simple tile matching game. If someone were to take Tetris and make it into a Saturday morning cartoon with a plot, great visuals and memorable characters, then Puyo Puyo Tetris comes pretty darn close.

Puyo Puyo Tetris is a game that nails the simple-to-play aspect we all love about puzzles games, while giving a level of shine and polish normally seen for more hardcore games. Its a perfect game to bring to a party and play with family or friends. Check it out when it releases next week on April 25.

# Brain Games May Not Boost Your Productivity After all – Indiatimes … – Indiatimes.com

If you thought brain games could make you smarter, think again. Researchers at Florida State University in the U.S. found no evidence such mind games could, in fact, increase your overall cognitive abilities.

bccl/representational image

An increasing number of people believe brain training helps protect them against memory loss or cognitive disorders, said Neil Charness, Professor of Psychology.

The study focused on whether brain games could boost the “working memory” needed for a variety of tasks.

bccl/representational image

All players were given lots of information they needed to juggle to solve problems.

Researchers tested whether the games enhanced players’ working memory and consequently improved other mental abilities, such as reasoning, memory and processing speed.

That is the theory behind many brain games: If you improve overall working memory, which is fundamental to so much of what we do every day, then you can enhance performance in many areas of your life.

bccl/representational image

The team examined whether improving working memory would translate to better performance on other tasks.

“It’s possible to train people to become very good at tasks that you would normally consider general working memory tasks: memorising 70, 80, even 100 digits,” Charness said.

bccl/representational image

“But these skills tend to be very specific and not show a lot of transfer. The thing that seniors, in particular, should be concerned about is if I can get very good at crossword puzzles, is that going to help me remember where my keys are? And the answer is probably no,” Charness said.

The researchers suggested that to improve cognitive function, people should get in aerobic exercise rather than sit in front of the computer playing these games.

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Brain Games May Not Boost Your Productivity After all – Indiatimes … – Indiatimes.com

# No Gain in Brain Games – Anti Aging News

Posted on April 18, 2017, 6 a.m. in Brain and Mental Performance Exercise

New research concludes that brain games do not actually improve cognition or help in preventing age-related brain decline.

Most people assume the popular brain games available on the world wide web make participants smarter. In reality, such brain games might not be that helpful. A recent study conducted at Florida State University found that there is no evidence that brain games boost overall cognitive abilities. In reality, those hyperbolic advertisements touting the merits of alleged brain-training products might not hold any truth at all.

The Florida State University study was led by Neil Charness, Wally Boot and Dustin Souders. Souders is a graduate student at the university. Boot is an associate professor of psychology. Charness is a top authority on cognition and aging. He is alsoa FSU professor of psychology andthe university’sdirector atthe Institute for Successful Longevity.

The study narrowed in on whether brain games improve the working memory required for myriad tasks. The study analyzed a group of people that played the brain training game known as Mind Frontiers. A second group completed crossword-style games along with number puzzles. Each playerwas provided with the information necessary to solve problems.

The research team tested whether game players enjoyed improved working memory that heightened other mental abilities ranging from processing speed to memory and reasoning. After all, this is the fundamental claim of the companies that produce brain games. The research team also analyzed whether boosting working memory translates to improved performance on additional tasks. This translation of working memory to other challenges is commonly referred to as far transfer.

Study Findings

Charness and his colleagues determined there is minimal evidence that brain games can boost one’s brainpower or life in a meaningful way. Indeed, exaggerated claims that such brain games boost cognition have recently resulted in some hefty fines for the companies that produce these products.

Though the research team indicated it is possible to train a person to excel at tasks that are considered working memory challenges, such skills are quite narrow in scope and do not show considerable transfer. In particular, seniors should be concerned about whether their ability to solve crossword puzzles will help them remember small life details such as where their keys are placed. The study’s findings show that the odds of brain games boosting memory for such subtle details are quite low.

Charness points out that additional research determined that aerobic exercise boosts the brain. Most people assume that strictly mental exercises heighten cognitive abilities. The little-known truth is that physical exercise often creates helpful structural changes within the brain that improve its function. Charness predicts that a combination of exercise and brain games known as exer-gaming will spike in popularity across the next couple of decades.

Though the study detailed above concluded that brain games do little, if anything, to boost brainpower, Charness is adamant that people should not be totally discouraged. He insists that the research effort should be viewed as another piece of the puzzle that humanity is attempting to assemble. Though brain games do little to boost far transfer, it is still possible to boost cognitive ability through aerobic exercise.

View original post here:
No Gain in Brain Games – Anti Aging News

# Just when you thought brain games made you smarter – Business Standard

ANI | Washington D.C. [USA] April 21, 2017 Last Updated at 15:22 IST

You may want to be skeptical of ads declaring you can rev up your brain’s performance by challenging it with products from the growing brain-training industry, according to a recent study.

The team of Florida State University researchers found no evidence that the games increased overall cognitive abilities.

“Our findings and previous studies confirm there’s very little evidence these types of games can improve your life in a meaningful way,” said Researcher Wally Boot, an expert on age-related cognitive decline.

Researcher Neil Charness said an increasing number of people believe brain training helps protect them against memory loss or cognitive disorders.

“Brain challenges like crossword games are a popular approach, especially among baby boomers, as a way to try to protect cognition,” Charness noted.

That popularity has turned the brain-training industry into a billion-dollar business. Brain games are available online and through mobile apps that typically sell for about 15 dollars a month or 300 dollars for lifetime memberships. But advertising for this rapidly growing business sector has sometimes used inflated claims. The Federal Trade Commission fined one brain-training company 50 million dollars for false advertising, which was later lowered to 2 million dollars.

“More companies are beginning to be fined for these types of inflated claims and that’s a good thing,” Boot said. “These exaggerated claims are not consistent with the conclusions of our latest study.”

The FSU team’s study focused on whether brain games could boost the “working memory” needed for a variety of tasks. In their study, they set up one group of people to play a specially designed brain-training video game called “Mind Frontiers,” while another group of players performed crossword games or number puzzles.

All players were given lots of information they needed to juggle to solve problems. Researchers tested whether the games enhanced players’ working memory and consequently improved other mental abilities, such as reasoning, memory and processing speed.

That’s the theory behind many brain games: If you improve overall working memory, which is fundamental to so much of what we do every day, then you can enhance performance in many areas of your life.

The team examined whether improving working memory would translate to better performance on other tasks or as the researchers called it: “far transfer.”

“It’s possible to train people to become very good at tasks that you would normally consider general working memory tasks: memorizing 70, 80, even 100 digits,” Charness said. “But these skills tend to be very specific and not show a lot of transfer. The thing that seniors in particular should be concerned about is, if I can get very good at crossword puzzles, is that going to help me remember where my keys are? And the answer is probably no.”

Charness noted that other research finds aerobic exercise, rather than mental exercise, is great for your brain. Physical exercise can actually cause beneficial structural changes in the brain and boost its function. He predicts “exer-gaming,” which combines exercise with brain games, will increase in popularity in the 21st century.

The study is published in the science journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

You may want to be skeptical of ads declaring you can rev up your brain’s performance by challenging it with products from the growing brain-training industry, according to a recent study.

The team of Florida State University researchers found no evidence that the games increased overall cognitive abilities.

“Our findings and previous studies confirm there’s very little evidence these types of games can improve your life in a meaningful way,” said Researcher Wally Boot, an expert on age-related cognitive decline.

Researcher Neil Charness said an increasing number of people believe brain training helps protect them against memory loss or cognitive disorders.

“Brain challenges like crossword games are a popular approach, especially among baby boomers, as a way to try to protect cognition,” Charness noted.

That popularity has turned the brain-training industry into a billion-dollar business. Brain games are available online and through mobile apps that typically sell for about 15 dollars a month or 300 dollars for lifetime memberships. But advertising for this rapidly growing business sector has sometimes used inflated claims. The Federal Trade Commission fined one brain-training company 50 million dollars for false advertising, which was later lowered to 2 million dollars.

“More companies are beginning to be fined for these types of inflated claims and that’s a good thing,” Boot said. “These exaggerated claims are not consistent with the conclusions of our latest study.”

The FSU team’s study focused on whether brain games could boost the “working memory” needed for a variety of tasks. In their study, they set up one group of people to play a specially designed brain-training video game called “Mind Frontiers,” while another group of players performed crossword games or number puzzles.

All players were given lots of information they needed to juggle to solve problems. Researchers tested whether the games enhanced players’ working memory and consequently improved other mental abilities, such as reasoning, memory and processing speed.

That’s the theory behind many brain games: If you improve overall working memory, which is fundamental to so much of what we do every day, then you can enhance performance in many areas of your life.

The team examined whether improving working memory would translate to better performance on other tasks or as the researchers called it: “far transfer.”

“It’s possible to train people to become very good at tasks that you would normally consider general working memory tasks: memorizing 70, 80, even 100 digits,” Charness said. “But these skills tend to be very specific and not show a lot of transfer. The thing that seniors in particular should be concerned about is, if I can get very good at crossword puzzles, is that going to help me remember where my keys are? And the answer is probably no.”

Charness noted that other research finds aerobic exercise, rather than mental exercise, is great for your brain. Physical exercise can actually cause beneficial structural changes in the brain and boost its function. He predicts “exer-gaming,” which combines exercise with brain games, will increase in popularity in the 21st century.

The study is published in the science journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

ANI

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