The Case of the Accidental Control Group – by Dr. Sara Sawtelle

If you Google “Accidental Control Group” or look it up in Wikipedia, you will not find a definition.  But the “Accidental Control Group” exists.  And it can actually be very useful.

Control groups are something we are told we need for a good scientific study, along with gold-standard research, double-blind designs, and placebos.  A control group allows us to compare the results of a treatment with a similar untreated group.  It allows us to conclude that the results we see are caused by our treatment.  Despite their importance, control groups are many times either impractical or unwelcome.  In real life, if you have a treatment or remediation that you believe will work — like improving their attention, memory or processing speed — why would you want to provide it to only half of your clients or students?  We often find ourselves in this situation when implementing BrainWare Safari in a study situation.

So, with the best of intentions, studies sometimes proceed without a control group built into the design.  But, as I have learned, even without planning, “Control Groups happen!”  These accidental control groups crop up when some of the individuals who planned to implement BrainWare Safari, don’t, or at least don’t follow through with fidelity to the protocol shown to deliver such strong improvement in cognitive skills.

Accidental control groups have always provided us with a learning experience.  For one thing, they have yielded compelling evidence that how you use BrainWare Safari makes a huge difference.  We recommend using BrainWare 3 to 5 times a week for 30 to 60 minutes over a 10- to 12-week period.  Across a variety of individual starting levels and across various settings, using the program according to the protocol leads to improvements in cognitive and academic abilities.  We learned from the Study Groups what happens when BrainWare Safari is used as recommended.  And we learned from the Accidental Control Groups that not doing the program as recommended yields much diminished benefits.

Accidents happen.  The key is to learn from them!

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