Brain Exercises Fail to Improve Memory, Cognitive Function

Article excerpt

"Brain training" does not improve general cognitive function, according to a 6-week trial of more than 11,000 participants.

The study results "provide no evidence for any generalized improvements in cognitive function following brain training in a large sample of healthy adults," Adrian M. Owen and his colleagues reported.

The participants were divided into three groups: the experimental group 1 (4,678 subjects), which did six tasks emphasizing reasoning, planning, and problem solving; experimental group 2 (4,014 subjects), which practiced six tasks focusing on short-term memory, attention, visuospatial processing, and mathematics; and a control group (2,738 subjects), which answered various research questions using the Internet, said Mr. Owen of the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, England, and his colleagues.

The participants were assessed before and after the intervention using benchmarking tests that measuring reasoning, verbal short-term memory, spatial working memory, and paired-associates learning.

All three groups improved on the tasks they had been assigned to during the trial, but postintervention improvements were much smaller (effect sizes: 0.01-0.22 for all groups).

No relationship was seen between number of training sessions performed or age of participants and postintervention benchmarking test scores. The scores on two tests reflected small gender differences.

Although participants improved at their assigned tasks, "training-related improvements may not even generalize to other tasks that use similar cognitive functions," the researchers said (Nature 2010 Apr. …