No Proof That ‘Brain Training’ Games Work, Some Experts Say

Oct 23, 2014

Credit: Couple photo via Shutterstock

By Bahar Gholipour

Many “brain-training” games may be marketed as a way to boost people’s alertness and intelligence, but scientists are now warning that such claims are not based on actual science.

Sixty-nine scientists from around the world issued a statement this week, saying that there’s no compelling scientific evidence supporting the claims that playing brain games may actually help people enhance their mental powers or overcome the effects of aging on the brain.

The scientists didn’t indicate which brain-training products are making misleading claims and which aren’t. But the brain fitness business has been booming in recent years, forecasted to reach $6 billion in 2020, according to a market research group Sharp Brains.

The most well-known is the website Lumosity, which has more than 60 million subscribers in 180 countries, according to the company. California-based Happy Neuron has nearly 11 million users and offers brain training programs to stimulate the main five cognitive functions, including memory, attention, language, and logical thinking. Rosetta Stone’s Fit Brains offers games, designed by neuroscientists to help train crucial brain skills, the company says.


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10 comments on “No Proof That ‘Brain Training’ Games Work, Some Experts Say

  • It’s probably a better bet to keep the body healthy by the sound of it. I believe engaging with other people is a good way to hold onto one’s faculties as well. That’s welcome news to the naturally sociable.

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    Neil5150 says:

    “alertness and intelligence” are not the same as “cognitive functions, including memory, attention, language, and logical thinking.”

    I’ve seen other studies that show you can improve brain function (like memory), by some of these activities, the key is once you get “good” at the task; the benefits have diminishing returns. You need to switch activities, to keep the benefits flowing.

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  • Alertness, is very much a question of which senses you have developed, and what they are focussed on. – As can easily be seen when observing people walking down the street using mobile phones or listening to music through ear-pieces.

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  • I’ve never indulged in anything other to develop my brain, such as it is, than life itself.

    And mine, has in retrospect, been more varied and enriching than I could ever have imagined in my misspent youth.

    And one of the enrichments has been the realization that we are all, if we care to make the effort, beneficiaries of our evolutionary inheritance, and have no need of fabricated notions.

    Thank you Charles and Alfred Russell.

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  • I’m a great believer in “use it or lose it”. A few years ago a study showed that the hippo campus of the average London taxi driver increased its capacity as the driver had to use that part of the brain more to remember all the different parts of London. Anyone who has tried to play an instrument, (except Mozart perhaps), will remember the tortuous process of producing one note after another, until after a while, the process comes more naturally with practice. I am told that the main thing with the golf swing is to get it into “muscle memory”, so that the player doesn’t even have to think about it, and can instead concentrate on other aspects of the shot.

    People who frequently do crossword puzzles will “naturally” find them easier to do than those who don’t.

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