Does Brain Training Work?

Does Brain Training Help?
Does Brain Training Help?

There is an interesting article in The Economist this week about brain training software like Lumosity and Neurosky.  I feel like I have some perspective on both products, having presented at the “Cool Products Expo” with Neurosky multiple times and having received my PhD from Stanford, unlike the Lumosity cofounder who dropped out halfway through 🙂

For those unfamiliar, both companies attempt to improve cognitive performance using technology, but do so in vastly different ways.  Lumosity uses online games to improve performance with matching games (like the old-school memory card game), speed games and some basic math games.  They figure that doing these games will keep your mind sharp, kind of like doing a daily crossword puzzle.  Neurosky is much more innovative, using brain wave sensing technology to “train your brain”.  They sell a headband that basically tells if you’re in a focused or relaxed state and then give you direct feedback.  I’m not sure if it’s really meant to improve real life performance, but using “The Force” in their Starwars game by concentrating on rock to make it explode is really cool!

Both companies have been very successful and with the current market for brain training estimated at $1 billion, there are a lot of reasons to pay attention.  The big question is do these systems work.  While your score might be improving on the “memory matrix” game, does this translate into having better memory for names at a party?  The jury is still out.

My opinion is that brain-training probably helps a little bit.  Maybe not on the scale seen with Think Gum, where a greater than 25% increase in memory was seen in a real world situation, but a little bit.  I’d be very curious to test people chewing Think Gum using both modalities and see if the Think Gum chewers out perform their peers.

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