Newspaper article

'Brain-Training' Games Do Not Boost Cognitive Skills among Older Adults, Study Finds

Newspaper article

'Brain-Training' Games Do Not Boost Cognitive Skills among Older Adults, Study Finds

Article excerpt

A recent study offers yet more evidence that commercial "brain-training" computer games do not give the brain any kind of extra cognitive "boost" in old age.

This is more bad news for the billion-dollar brain-training industry, which already took a blow last year when the Federal Trade Commission fined Lumos Labs, the manufacturer of the widely advertised Luminosity brain-training games, $2 million for deceiving customers with unsubstantiated suggestions that its products could help protect against memory loss and even dementia.

The idea that brain-training games can combat age-related cognitive decline hinges on something called "far transfer" -- "the notion that training specific cognitive functions that support the performance of a variety of tasks (e.g., working memory) can lead to improvements on many tasks beyond the trained one," the authors of the new study explain.

But research suggesting that purposeful cognitive training can help with far transfer -- and that it then has a positive effect on everyday tasks -- has been controversial, the authors also point out.

So they decided to conduct their own randomized controlled trial to see what cognitive effects, if any, a brain-training game might have on older adults.

Study details

Led by Neil Charness, a psychologist at Florida State University, the researchers recruited 60 adults, aged 65 and older. Prescreening of the study's participants showed they were all "cognitively intact."

After undergoing tests of their working memory and other mental abilities, such as reasoning and processing speed, the participants were randomly assigned to either an intervention or a control group. Those in the intervention group were given a tablet computer with a preloaded application that consisted of seven cognitive-training video games. They were asked to play three of the games daily (including weekends) for 45 minutes per session. They kept journals to record their playtime.

The control group also received tablets. …

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