Are Brain Games Actually Making You Smarter?

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Increase your IQ…

Enhance your memory…

Obtain laser like focus…

All in a few minutes of virtual fun on your phone!

These are the types of claims developers of brain games – a billion dollar industry – make to get millions of Americans to buy their apps and software.  

Most of us pass the time playing games on our phones anyways…why not get smarter in the meantime?

Well, this dream scenario for want to be geniuses might just be too good to be true.

Current research doesn’t support many, if any, of the claims made by brain game companies.  

That’s according to a new study published in the science journal, Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, from a team of Florida State University researchers.[R]

“Our findings and previous studies confirm there’s very little evidence these types of games can improve your life in a meaningful way,” said Dr. Wally Boot, an expert on age-related cognitive decline at FSU.

With millions of people around the world spending typically over $100 a year and hundreds of hours “training their brains” this is a big discovery.

The Theory Behind the Brain Game Boom

The theory behind most brains games is that they can improve your working memory.

Working memory is the thinking skill that focuses on memory-in-action: the ability to remember and use relevant information while in the middle of an activity.

Working memory helps you hold on to information long enough to use it, is crucial to concentration, and can affect how well you learn something.

The FSU team examined whether improving working memory by brains would translate to better performance on other tasks or as the researchers called it: “far transfer.”

All study participants were given information they needed to juggle to solve problems.
Researchers tested whether the games enhanced players’ working memory and accordingly improved other mental abilities, such as reasoning, memory and processing speed.

In short, they did not.

“It’s possible to train people to become very good at tasks that you would normally consider general working memory tasks: memorizing 70, 80, even 100 digits,” said Neil Charness, lead author of the study.

“But these skills tend to be very specific and not show a lot of transfer. The thing that seniors in particular should be concerned about is, if I can get very good at crossword puzzles, is that going to help me remember where my keys are? And the answer is probably no.”

Adding to a consensus among other published studies is that brain training games aren’t improving your cognitive skills, but rather just making you better at the games themselves.

The brain game industry has recently come under legal fire, with some fines as high as $50 million for false advertising.

Have you ever used brain games before?

Maybe you were thinking about trying brain games?

Join the conversation by leaving a comment in the comment section below.

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