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Playing brain games won't improve or protect your memory, study finds

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As appealing as the concept may be, brain-training games will not help you get smarter or sharper or reverse cognitive declines, age-related or otherwise. The only actual benefit players get from playing brain games is to improve their brain-game playing skills, reports Extreme Tech.

There is no proven crossover or transference from playing brain-training games to real-world benefits. You will not gain improved memory or sharper intellectual abilities according to a meta-analysis, or study of studies, cited by Extreme Tech. There is also no evidence that brain games will stave off Alzheimer’s, dementia, or other age-related conditions associated with cognitive loss.

A meta-analysis is a statistical analysis used to find common results or patterns between similar studies. In this case, two previous studies of the literature came to different conclusions about the benefits of brain-training. One study by 70 scientists said brain training did not work. A second meta-study, this one with 133 scientists, said just the opposite, that brain training does work and that many other individual studies proved it. The recent study cited by Extreme Tech agreed with the first group.

The study of studies of studies sided with the first group. Published in the October issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest, the newer overview study stated, “Based on this examination, we find extensive evidence that brain-training interventions improve performance on the trained tasks, less evidence that such interventions improve performance on closely related tasks, and little evidence that training enhances performance on distantly related tasks or that training improves everyday cognitive performance.”

In other words, brain-training game playing makes you a better player, but that is about it. The group also went on to admonish the “major shortcomings in design or analysis” of many of the prior studies.

So some of this may seem like academic posturing or snob statistics, but the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) already came to the same conclusion.  Earlier this year, the FTC accused Lumos Labs, the publishers of the widely advertised Lumosity brain-training game suite, of false advertising in promising medical benefits without data to back it up. The FTC fined Lumos Labs $2 million.

Sorry, but playing games to sharpen your mind won’t do the trick.

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