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Brain games don’t make you smarter, just better at brain games

Unfortunately, the improvement from brain-training games doesn't translate to real life.


Patrick Howell O'Neill


Posted on Jan 15, 2014   Updated on May 31, 2021, 9:18 pm CDT

Lumosity, a brain-training website with more 50 million users, calls itself a “gym for your brain” in a far-reaching ad campaign that implies the app can improve your intelligence, memory, attention, and overall brain function.

But a new study in the Journal of Neuroscience says that while such games probably do improve performance on specific tasks—like the game itself—they may not improve overall brain function.

It’s probable that such games do improve performance on a specific task, but it’s unlikely that there’s a general improvement. That’s according to a recent study in the Journal of Neuroscience that tested 60 men and women on their ability to restrain themselves from performing an action. The test may have temporarily improved inhibitory control in the subjects, but didn’t lead to any general improvement.

This is far from the first knock against brain games. 

A National Institutes of Health study from last year came to many of the same conclusions: Brain games may help in narrow tasks, but they don’t improve overall function or transfer to general skills like reading or math. 

“Playing the games makes you better at the games, in other words, but not at anything anyone might care about in real life,” wrote Pulitzer Prize-winning science writer Garth Cook in an article titled “Brain Games are Bogus.

H/T Scientific American | Photo via Ivan/Flickr

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*First Published: Jan 15, 2014, 2:00 pm CST