A new paper released by The Journal of Neuroscience shows that commercial cognitive training programs make people better at using these programs, but they do not improve decision-making skills.
Commercial brain training programs, like Lumosity, claim that they can improve several mental processes.
“We believe in helping people keep their brains challenged. That's why we created a simple online tool to allow anyone to train core cognitive abilities. From neuroscience to visual art, we combine many diverse disciplines to create our engaging brain training program”, states Lumosity in its website.
For the study, 128 young adults were trained during 10 weeks on either an online cognitive program or online videogames. Before and after the study, participants completed functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans during decision-making tasks.
The scientists found no evidence that cognitive training influences neural activity during decision-making. With practice, individuals enrolled in the cognitive program did improve on the specific tasks they took, but participants in both groups had similar results in standardized cognitive measures.
The researchers warn that commercial brain training programs might not provide benefits above those offered by standard videogames.
In a statement to Ars Technica, Lumosity’s spokesperson Sara Colvin criticized the study’s focus on young adults.
“However, it’s a giant leap to suggest this study proves cognitive training is ‘no better than video games at improving brain function’: in fact, the study has a much narrower scope, focusing on risk sensitivity in young adults. There remain many open questions in the field—how, why, and in what circumstances cognitive training is efficacious—and so painting in such broad strokes potentially undermines this important, ongoing research area”.