No Evidence that “Brain-Training” Games Work to Improve Concentration or Memory

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A number of the country’s top scientists have concluded in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest that “brain-training” programs like Lumosity have not been shown to work.  They say in their paper that “there does not yet appear to be sufficient evidence to justify the claim that brain training is an effective tool for enhancing real-world cognition.”  You may remember the Federal Trade Commission punishing brain training company Lumosity with a fine of nearly $2 million dollars for false claims about the effectiveness of their product and a failure to provide supporting evidence.

The take away of the paper is that while these sorts of online games and programs can help you improve at the games themselves, this has not been shown to translate to real world improvement.  While it is true that there are some examples “brain-training” success stories like driving simulators helping with actual driving, this is a far cry from what has been promised from a number of these training programs.  The public should be wary of any sort of program that does not provide peer-reviewed evidence for their product.

“Smart Drug” Modafinil Slows Reaction Time in Cognitive Test

Provigil Does NOT Improve Cognitive Performance
Attention Late Night Crammers: Provigil Does NOT Improve Cognitive Performance

Modfinil, a drug used by narcoleptics, is sometimes used by college students as a study aid.  While the drug certainly helps prevent drowsiness, it does not appear to boost cognitive performance.  In fact, a study just published in PLOS ONE showed that health volunteers who completed a sentence completion test had a similar self-reported mood and equal number of errors as the control group.  Unexpectedly, the modafinil group was significantly slower than that control group to complete the test.  The lead researcher commented “Our research showed that when a task required instant reactions the drug just increased reaction times with no improvement to cognitive performance.”

This research is in contrast to a study published in the Journal of Appetite on Think Gum® that demonstrated that Think Gum® can be used to improve aspects of memory.  In this study,  students who chewed Think Gum® performed significantly better in multiple types of word recall tests.  The magnitude of memory improvement was dramatic.  Students in the Think Gum® group remembered over 25% more than either control group.  Additionally, those students in the Think Gum® group felt significantly more alert, felt that they could better concentrate and felt they had enhanced performance as compared to the other groups.

While Provigil (Modafinil) might help you stay awake, it certainly won’t help you do better work.  So although Modafinil may be useful to keep you awake during your all night study session, it isn’t such a great idea to take it during your math test when both time and accuracy count.  For exams where answers matter, you will want to buy some Think Gum.