Review: myBrainLab and the BrainRx Program

myBrainLab is a brain development center in Publika offering the BrainRx training program created by Dr Ken Gibson. To find out more about them, visit our previous posts:

You can also watch the following video to understand more about BrainRx (also called LearningRx):

For those not living in Malaysia, BrainRx is available globally. Check to see if there is a center near you.

In this post, we want to share our experience with myBrainLab and the BrainRx Program.

The Commitment

There are 4 different BrainRx Programs available. The one that Aristotle is going through is the Brain Base Camp program which is a personalised training program.

For optimum results, myBrainLab recommends that your child undergoes training in 1.5 hour sessions, 3 times weekly, over the course of 12 weeks.

Although myBrainLab also offers a condensed training program – 1.5 hour sessions, once a week, over 12 weeks, it should be noted that there will be a trade-off and the results cannot be expected to be as effective as the recommended program. An analogy would be to compare it to working out at a gym. If you only go once a week, you cannot expect your fitness levels to increase as dramatically as if you were going three times a week.

The condensed training program is usually not recommended unless the student’s brain skills profile demonstrates moderate weaknesses in only one or two areas. Students with significant weaknesses should complete the full brain training program.

The Trainers

If there was one thing that really struck me about myBrainLab, it was the trainers. From the moment we walked into their center, I noticed immediately that there was something different about their staff. They were open, friendly, professional and positive in their attitude and mannerisms. I remember wondering where on Earth they managed to find such trainers…

In Dan Hurley’s book – Smarter, it was mentioned that to become a BrainRx trainer, you had to have at least tertiary-level education. I confess that I never expected myBrainLab to follow suit – after all, this is Malaysia and we’re famous for cutting corners – but not only are the trainers degree holders, the trainer selection process and training program are both vigorous and intensive. To be considered a trainer, they must:

  • go through a pre-hire screening process that includes cognitive testing to ensure that they the right cognitive profile that matches the requirements for BrainRx trainers.
  • pass a test on their training skills and knowledge of the BrainRx program – if they fail, they are required to re-sit the test
  • go through the brain training program that their students undertake so they can understand the feelings that their students maybe experiencing
  • train a mock student to see how they handle their students

All training sessions are video-recorded so trainer quality is always being monitored for consistency.

The BrainRx Program

Before beginning the program, every student goes through a brain skills test to identify the weak cognitive processes that impede your child’s learning ability. The BrainRx training program is then tailored specifically to your child to ensure that it addresses the your child’s specific weaknesses.

The BrainRx Program incorporates brain training programs that are both online and offline. The following video shows an example of an exercise you can do with your child at home for practice. It is also indicative of the kind of activities your child has to do in the program except that this one doesn’t require any materials or special equipment.

Based on my knowledge of brain training, and also confirmed by Dan Hurley in “Smarter”, many of the BrainRx exercises are the same as the kinds that are used by other scientifically proven cognitive trainers, except that they have been translated to tabletop exercises using cards and other materials.

The students work with a dedicated trainer who will see them through the entire training program – in other words, they get the same trainer, every session. The trainer will work with them for the entire session, even when they are doing the online component. This is probably the most significant part of the program because there are a lot of things a trainer can observe that a computer cannot record. This personal attention is what sets BrainRx apart from any online brain training program or app because a computer cannot motivate you to persevere when the training gets difficult.

The Cost

The BrainRx Program costs RM150/hr. It can be paid upfront for the entire course or as a monthly installment via credit card. For RM150/hr, I agree that it seems steep. However, considering that I have paid RM100 for an hour long class where the ratio of instructor to students was 1:4, RM150/hr for the individual attention of a highly qualified trainer and technology use seems fair.

Compared to online brain training programs, this is a serious financial commitment. I guess it is like the difference between signing up for a gym membership and engaging a personal trainer. A qualified personal trainer can help you come up with a workout program that will target all the weaknesses that you want to overcome. Your personal trainer can also identify when you are doing things incorrectly or when your form is poor. Finally, personal trainers are also there to motivate you to achieve your goal, and this can be vital especially when the training gets difficult. If it is difficult for an adult to stay motivated, it can be even more so for a child with less experience – and that is why the personal attention makes a difference.

Our Experience

At the time of writing this review, Aristotle has only completed 27 hours out of the 6o hours he is committed to complete. This review will be followed up with a second review upon Aristotle’s completion of the program.

Before anything happens, every student is required to take the Gibson Test of Brain Skills so the trainers can understand your child’s cognitive profile. This helps them identify the areas of weakness that will require more attention. When Aristotle did his test, they identified the following weaknesses in his cognitive profile:

  • working memory
  • long-term memory

What was also evident during his cognitive assessment, as observed by his assessor, was that Aristotle’s confidence was easily shaken. Mistakes upset him and clouded his ability to perform, making him prone to subsequent mistakes. The more mistakes he made, the worse he performed. When he performed poorly – or below his own expectation of getting all the answers correct – he would become extremely discouraged. It was basically a downward spiral of negativity. Instead of being motivated to work harder, he balked at the challenges he faced. It became clear that what we needed to work on was more than just his cognitive function – it was also his attitude and mindset.

I have been aware of the problems with Aristotle’s mindset for a while. Even though we have attempted to address these issues, it is clear that it has not been working. Aristotle has rarely had to face challenging situations that stretch the boundaries of his limitations. Whenever he is challenged, he finds ways to avoid it. Being placed in a program like BrainRx, where the work is constantly adapting so that it is just one step ahead of him has not been pleasant for him. There are days when he doesn’t enjoy himself at myBrainLab because the work is hard.

The challenging nature of the environment is bringing out the worst in him and it is extremely difficult to watch as a parent. I did not realise it before, but this program is exactly what he needs. He has been locked in his fixed mindset about his intelligence and he is responding exactly the way any individual with a fixed mindset responds – he is trying to shirk away from experiences that challenges his belief about his intellectual superiority. BrainRx does exactly that.

Is the Program Working?

As I wrote earlier, we are still less than halfway through the training so I cannot tell what improvements it has made with his working memory and long term memory. Only at the end of the program when he is re-tested will we see those results.

Is it helping his mindset? I believe that the way to change a behaviour is to repeatedly do something until it becomes a habit. Until he started attending myBrainLab, Aristotle was not regularly facing challenging scenarios that help him cultivate a positive attitude for hard work. It seemed that he more I challenged him, the more he balked. The fact that he is still attending myBrainLab and has not slammed his foot down in protest is testimony of progress. Aristotle has never been a child that could be made to do something he doesn’t want to.

I have been very impressed with the manner in which his trainer handles him. I won’t pretend that Aristotle has been easy – far from it. In fact, so difficult is his behaviour at times that we have been politely asked before to have him removed from programs he participated in. I can tell you that it sucks to be the parent of the child whom the teachers want to get rid of.

The first few weeks of training at myBrainLab were tough. Although we had good days, the bad days were really bad – so bad that there were times when I wanted to have my own little tantrum. Aristotle’s trainer at myBrainLab, however, seemed to have him in stride. I marvel at the infinite calm he exudes even in the face of my son’s obstinance. Aristotle may not always attend his training sessions eagerly, but lately, we generally come away on a fairly positive note.

In terms of getting Aristotle take on the challenges that we have struggled to encourage him with, myBrainLab has gotten a lot further than we ever have. It probably helps that Aristotle is also susceptible to the collection of brain points that he can exchange for prizes.

Recommedations

Do I think the program is worth it? Even though we have not completed the program and I have yet to realise the full benefits of this program, I do believe it’s worth it. I would also put Hercules through it when he is old enough.

Update: here is our final review at the end of 60 hours

Disclosure: we were invited by myBrainLab to take the test and try their brain course but rest assured that this has not influenced our review in any way. 

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

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