The booming brain game industry appeals to people eager to fight age-related memory loss and otherwise boost their brain power. But can playing brain games on your phone or computer really make you smarter?

Alas, no, according to an exhaustive review of published studies on brain-training products incuding Lumosity, CogniFit and BrainHQ.

“We found little compelling evidence that practicing cognitive tasks in brain-training products produces lasting cognitive benefits for real-world cognition,” the authors of the study wrote in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest. “However, some training programs might well produce benefits for the trained tasks and closely-related ones.”

Led by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the researchers focused on studies cited by brain-training companies and scientists who support their claims of effectiveness. They concluded that many of the studies were poorly designed or did not use best practices to draw clear conclusions about the effectiveness of brain training for everyday tasks.

“If your hope is to stave off the cognitive losses that sometimes accompany aging or to enhance your performance at school or in your profession, you should be skeptical of the value of any quick fixes,” the authors wrote. “The evidence largely does not support claims of broad cognitive benefits from practicing the sorts of cognitive tasks used in most brain-training software.”

The scientists suggested that those interested in staying mentally-fit consider doing activities such as exercising and reading that have proven to promote brain health.


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