‘Brain training’ won’t make you smarter or stave off Alzheimer’s after all

Finally: some good news for the lazy, can’t-be-bothered-with-Sudoku types among us. Turns out, ‘brain training’ software and apps aren’t doing a darn thing. Yep, even though Nicole Kidman strongly implied the DS version would make us smarter, prettier, and more Oscar-winning, there’s absolutely no scientific evidence to suggest that any technology can train our brains well enough to improve our memories and protect against Alzheimer’s.

A group of cognitive scientists and neuroscientists have released a public statement (snappily-titled ‘A Consensus on the Brain Training Industry from the Scientific Community’ via the Stanford Center on Longevity blog). It clarifies that there’s no research to show long-term benefits from these programmes.

The scientists feel that because brain training programmes are often endorsed by or developed with the help of neuroscientists, laypeople get the impression that they’re medically-approved and have concrete health benefits. In reality, there are no regulations or standards for this type of product. Earlier this month, scientists did discover that brain training can help with short-term memory. But there’s no evidence that it helps in the long term, and the belief that it might stave off dementia is completely unconfirmed.

Says the statement:

“We object to the claim that brain games offer consumers a scientifically grounded avenue to reduce or reverse cognitive decline when there is no compelling scientific evidence to date that they do.”

The scientists add that they’re concerned older people are being exploited by over-inflated claims, and emphasise that mental function doesn’t inevitably decline with age, and we can learn new skills at any time.

When it comes to Alzheimer’s, they say the only evidence-based medical advice for now is to follow the same instructions we’re always given about preventing disease: eat a healthy diet, exercise, step away from your computer once in a while… And only spend your time on ‘brain training’ if it’s something you genuinely enjoy. (There are some really good shows on Netflix.)

Image via wetwebwork’s Flickr.

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Diane Shipley

One thought on “‘Brain training’ won’t make you smarter or stave off Alzheimer’s after all

  • I hope that more scientists and neuroscientists help dispel some of these false “miracle” claims. Every week, it’s something new that will prevent Alzheimer’s when in fact there is little to no scientific evidence. We know so little about the disease. Finding purpose and working on significant projects seem like a logical approach to intellectual stimulation that might out weigh games.

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