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Scientists find no evidence of common brain training claims

Brain Training GraphicAre you looking to stay sharp? Keep your mind up to task? Refresh your memory and keep your brain in good shape? You’re probably better off not counting on brain games.

Scientists from around the country, including Michigan State University’s David Z. Hambrick, reviewed a breadth of scientific literature that brain training companies cite to support their products and found it lacking.

“It’s disappointing that the evidence isn’t stronger,” says Daniel Simons, a professor of psychology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and co-author. “It would be really nice if you could play some games and have it radically change your cognitive abilities, but the studies don’t show that on objectively measured real-world outcomes.”

The team explains that they focused exclusively on published, peer-reviewed, scientific journal articles cited by brain-training companies and proponents as support for the scientific credibility of their claims.

The study, published today in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, concluded that “based on our extensive review of the literature cited by brain-training companies in support of their claims, coupled with our review of related brain-training literatures that are not currently associated with a company or product, there does not yet appear to be sufficient evidence to justify the claim that brain training is an effective tool for enhancing real-world cognition.”

The study outlines many problems with existing science conducted to support brain training company products. Researchers found that in some cases, supporting literature fails even basic requirements of solid science such as controlling for a placebo effect or including enough people.

Simons tells NPR that there is no evidence that brain training programs help you improve at anything other than the test you’re taking. Marketing claims of improved memory or focus in general don’t stand up to scrutiny. The science that companies point to simply doesn’t exist.

You may remember the Federal Trade Commission punishing brain training company Lumosity with a fine of nearly $2 million dollars for false claims about the effectiveness of their product and a failure to provide supporting science.

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