Many new websites have arisen touting their ability to improve sharpness, concentration, speed, and memory through games. This has become a multimillion-dollar business with one company’s mobile app being downloaded nearly 50,000 times a day. The websites suggest that only a few minutes of “brain training” each day will show improvements. But what is the science behind this and do brain games actually work?
According to Lumosity, a leading brain training website, “the games are based on the science of neuroplasticity, the idea that the brain can change and reorganize itself”. The company has also created a document with a number of resources are references about the science and the scientific research behind brain games. In particular, one study in 2008 conducted by Susanne Jaeggi found that brain games could boost a person’s IQ by a full point per hour of playing.
However, conflicting results abound. A group of psychologist at Georgia Tech who replicated the test found no significant improvement as a result of brain training. And another entirely different study with 11,000 individuals, which ran for six weeks, showed that participants improved at playing the games but that there were no significant changes in mental ability in other areas. And finally, last year, research was published with a whopping 44,600 people, that showed those who regularly brain trained had no improvement in short term memory tests.
On the other hand, in the January issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society a 10 year study involving more than 2,800 elderly people was conducted. Participants had an average age of 73 years old. They completed the brain training for five to six weeks. Now, 10 years later, researchers wanted to check in to see if the training had any long lasting effects. As it turns out 60 percent of the participants who got the brain training showed an improved ability to handle daily tasks.
The scientific jury is still out on this one. Perhaps, the only way to know for sure about brain training is to try it yourself.