Brain-training games don’t really train brains, a new study suggests

By on July 12, 2017

(Washington Post) The first large study to rigorously examine brain-training games using cognitive tests and brain imaging adds to evidence that they are not particularly good at training brains and appear to have no more effect on healthy brains than video games. The study is another blow to companies such as Lumosity that have been accused of falsely claiming their programs can improve mental performance.

In a study published Monday in the Journal of Neuroscience, 128 young adults were tested for mental performance after playing either Lumosity brain-training games or regular video games for 10 weeks. Researchers saw no evidence that commercial brain-training leads to improvements in memory, decision-making, sustained attention or ability to switch between mental tasks.

In early 2016, Lumosity paid a $2 million fine to settle charges of misleading advertising. While its commercials boasted that Lumosity games are based on the science of neuroplasticity, the Federal Trade Commission and an open letter from 69 brain scientists insisted the research does not support claims that brain games make people smarter or stave off mental decline. While a study conducted by Lumosity in 2015 suggested that brain-training games improve performance on some mental tasks better than crossword puzzles do, other studies have shown no effect.

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