Do ‘brain training’ games actually help kids’ cognitive skills?

Cogmed
Image credit: AIM Academy

In just 13 years, brain training has sprouted from a fledgling industry to a behemoth projected to be worth as much as $7.5 billion in 2020. Companies like Lumosity, LearningRx, and Cogmed lead the pack, with more than 100 million subscribers between them. Customers pay to play games and participate in programs designed to enhance their cognitive skills for the long term.

The notion that harmless and fun video games can boost kids’ memory, problem-solving skills, and focus is a powerful pitch to parents. Companies claim that these benefits are verified by “neuroscience” (ever a captivating buzzword), but how do they really stack up within the scientific literature? A trio of Spanish psychologists recently dove in to find out. Their findings are published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

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Reviewing all published studies with “empirical data on the use of brain training for children or adolescents” from “commercially available training applications,” the researchers found a general lack of scientific rigor. Of the reviewed work, “40 studies (68.2%) were not randomized and controlled.”

The majority of independent studies found only “near transfer” effects, meaning that training tended only to produce better performance at tasks similar to the games that subjects played. Just 15.7% of the published studies showed evidence for long-term “far transfer” effects.

“Based on our results, Brain Training Programs as commercially available products are not as effective as first expected or as they promise in their advertisements,” the reviewers summarized.

Read full, original post: Is Brain Training for Kids Scientifically Valid?

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