Lumosity – Shaky Science?

With the spectre of dementia facing anyone hitting middle age, companies that offer brain training through specially designed games offer hope of strengthening our brains and staving off cognitive decline.

Screen Shot 2016-07-11 at 9.54.41 PMSadly, the research supporting these games is mixed at best. Earlier this year, the Federal Trade Commission cracked down on the well known company Lumosity. The FTC asserted that the claims related to prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s had no basis in fact. Lumosity agreed to a $2 million settlement.

So, do games like these help or not?   In the words of one expert, “There is strong evidence” that brain training can improve certain cognitive skills, he said, but “there’s still a lot of work to be done.” Another way of looking at is, if you spend a lot of time on crossword puzzles, you’ll get good at crossword puzzles. What’s less certain is how much of that improvement translates to real-world tasks, something known as “transfer”.

The moral of the story is there’s no harm, and perhaps a lot of benefit, from programs like Lumosity. Do not rely on them as a panacea, however.   There are other things we can do that are supported by strong research that also help reduce our risk for Alzheimer’s and other dementias. These include regular exercise, a healthy Mediterranean diet and active social relations.




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