Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

How Strong Is the Evidence for Brain Training Programs?

By Tim Hannan

The quality of research supporting brain training programs has been questioned.

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It’s well-established that training on a cognitive task will usually improve performance on that task. However, companies that offer “brain training” software invariably make the bolder claim that the benefits of their products extend beyond the trained tasks to the improvement of a broader range of cognitive skills that enhance the user’s academic studies, professional goals and social pursuits.

Such marketing claims are not always found to be sustainable: the owner of the ubiquitously promoted Lumonosity was found by the US Federal Trade Commission to have engaged in deceptive advertising, as its claims were not supported by “competent and reliable scientific evidence”. (A $50 million judgement was reduced to a $2 million fine because of financial hardship).

Until now one obstacle to evaluating such marketing claims has been the absence of a detailed review of the existing evidence for these brain training programs. Now, a group of researchers have addressed this matter, and their findings do not make happy reading for the brain trainers.

The quantity and quality of the scientific evidence for the utility of brain training has been debated by neuroscientists for several years. In October 2014, the Stanford Center on Longevity and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development published a statement by 70 psychologists and neuroscientists asserting...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.