Computer-based brain training doesn’t improve cognitive skills, concludes a large study published in Nature. The study involved healthy adult viewers of a BBC science program. From the Wall Street Journal:
One group took part in online games aimed at improving skills linked to general intelligence, such as reasoning, problem-solving and planning. A second test group did exercises to boost short-term memory, attention and mathematical and visual-spatial skills—functions typically targeted by commercial brain-training programs. A third “control group” was asked to browse the Internet and seek out answers to general knowledge questions.
The conclusion: Those who did the brain-training exercises improved in the specific tasks that they practiced. However, their improvement was generally no greater than the gains made by the control group surfing the Internet. And none of the groups showed evidence of improvement in cognitive skills that weren’t specifically used in their tasks.
Critics say the brain workouts were too brief — 10 minutes a day, three times a day, for six weeks — to make a difference.
Modest benefits to cognitive abilities have been reported in studies of older people, preschool children and videogame players, the study’s authors say.