Candy Crush and Your Brain
FEAR of memory loss and dementia have sparked a trend for "brain training" apps which promise to boost your memory and reaction time.
But a recent study suggests that two of the market leaders in this field aren't any better at improving decision making than casual games like Candy Crush or online video games like Grand Theft Auto.
University of Pennsylvania psychologist Joseph Kable "found no evidence that cognitive training influences neural activity during decision-making, nor did we find effects of cognitive training on measures of delay discounting or risk sensitivity".
It's difficult to evaluate whether brain training apps do anything other than make you better at playing a specific game, rather than making a lasting impact on your memory or decision making.
Kable wanted to test whether the "skills" learnt in the training apps transfer beyond the game.
In a study which was recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, he tested whether Luminosity and Elevate could ultimately affect human behaviour too.
Along with a group of researchers, he monitored 128 young adults - 71 male and 57 female - over ten weeks to see whether web games or commercial "cognitive training" games could alter their behaviour.
He found that participants in the commercial cognitive training group showed similar improvement as those playing web games.
He wrote: "Commercial adaptive cognitive training appears to have no benefits in healthy young adults above those of standard video games for measures of brain activity, choice behaviour, or cognitive performance."
Lumosity is used by 85 million people across the world and is translated into several different languages including Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Korean and Portuguese.
When quizzed by the Sun Online, Lumosity said they supported Kable's study throughout and appreciated their "novel" approach.
"Looking at the link between cognitive training and risk-reward decision-making is a novel approach — most people don’t associate brain training with decision-making or risk sensitivity — and at Lumosity, we encourage taking an innovative approach to research," it said.
"However, it’s a giant leap to suggest this study proves cognitive training is 'no better than video games at improving brain function': in fact, the study has a much narrower scope, focusing on risk sensitivity in young adults.
"There remains many open questions in the field — how, why, and in what circumstances cognitive training is efficacious — and so painting in such broad strokes potentially undermines this important, ongoing research area.
"We remain committed to supporting quality research, regardless of the outcome: every study can be built on, and they all move us closer to answering open questions — in turn, improving the quality of products available."