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Is this study/article scientifically valid.

http://news.berkeley.edu/2012/08/22/intense-prep-for-law-school-admissions-test-alters-brain-structure/

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    $\begingroup$ Can you provide some insight into why you are questioning it? And if you are questioning the original article or its presentation in the press? "Studying hard makes you think better" doesn't seem to me to be all that controversial a finding, no more than "lifting weights makes you stronger." $\endgroup$ – Bryan Krause Sep 17 '18 at 20:50
  • $\begingroup$ I just want to make it clear that if I do study for the lsat I will receive the changes according to the articles and not waste time or energy on just getting better at doing a specific task that does not translate outside of the test. $\endgroup$ – C Shirley Sep 17 '18 at 21:38
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    $\begingroup$ There have been a lot questions here about [far] transfers; see psychology.stackexchange.com/questions/207/… which has links to quite a few others. $\endgroup$ – Fizz Sep 17 '18 at 23:33
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The study you refer to shows that a measure of brain white matter connectivity, called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) shows increases in structural connectivity between brain areas that have been previously implicated in reasoning and other brain functions.

The news article goes on to make additional claims, not made in the paper, that this result means studying for the LSAT improves reasoning overall. The study itself does not make that claim, and they did not test reasoning besides measuring LSAT performance. Therefore, you cannot conclude from this work that studying for the LSAT improves performance on anything besides the LSAT, only that studying is sufficient to make detectable changes in brain structure.

I would certainly say it is plausible that studying one set of tasks, like studying for the LSAT, would cause improvement in related skills (certainly this assumption is the basis of a whole lot of pedagogy), but that certainly doesn't mean it is the best way to improve or that it is special compared to other types of study.

Note also that the participants in the study were involved in a particular training program and the results may not generalize to other forms of LSAT preparation.

As a side note, it is always important to read original research articles before taking news at face value. Even the researchers quoted in a news article may not approve of how exactly they were quoted. The news process is subject to sensationalization and the qualifying language that scientists frequently use may not reach the final edits.


Mackey, A. P., Whitaker, K. J., & Bunge, S. A. (2012). Experience-dependent plasticity in white matter microstructure: reasoning training alters structural connectivity. Frontiers in neuroanatomy, 6, 32.

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