Brain Training Games Are Probably a Scam

For years, we’ve been under the assumption that brain games ‘train’ and strengthen the brain. You know, the whole ‘use it or lose it’ concept. Although we want to actively intervene, these brain games are likely not the answer. As reported in a recent study, motivated individuals may be throwing away their money, when they could easily improve their brain health using cheaper, more effective methods.

Study Finds — The Effectiveness of ‘Brain Games’ May Be a Hoax

In the past, companies such as Lumosity have received some heat regarding the true effectiveness of their programs. Accused of false claims in terms of mental performance, this large study now adds to that argument. Here is briefly what the study found:
  • Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, 128 participants were tested in relation to mental performance after playing either standard video games or Lumosity brain-specific games.
  • After 10 weeks, the researchers found no evidence that these brain-training games improved any aspects of mental performance — including decision-making, memory, attention, or the ability to switch between mental tasks.
  • These participants played these games five times a week for half an hour. Since the researchers found that both sets of gamers scored higher over time in terms of cognition, they wanted to determine whether or not ‘gaming’ was the key variable.
  • In order to do so, they tested young adults, in addition to the first two groups. These participants didn’t play any games, yet they were shown to improve at an equal rate. Meaning, it was the process of repeatedly taking the cognitive tests that improved scoring — not the games themselves.

It’s important to note that this study isn’t saying that brain games of any kind are not beneficial. There may be subtle positive effects that were not determined in the 10-week study. Also, select groups of people (i.e. the elderly or even those who have suffered a brain injury) may slightly benefit, even if youthful brains do not.

In the past, studies have, of course, been conducted on this subject. Of those, one study was led by Lumosity, showcasing positive results. From conflicting studies to a $2 million fine based on misleading advertising, it appears that the validity of these brain-training games is weak in terms of evidence.

The bottom line: For those who are otherwise healthy, these brain-training games will likely not make a significant difference. Instead of focusing on a computerized games and a sedentary lifestyle, you should focus more on living an active, balanced lifestyle.

With Brain Games Out, What Are My Options?

Although I initially began my journey within the field of psychology in order to study behavior, particular anti-social behavior and crime, over the past three years or so, my attention has shifted. Being incredibly interested in nutrition and its effects on the brain, this has served me well within my Alzheimer’s research.

After all, what you put into your body significantly influences all aspects of your health — including your heart and brain. On that note, let’s discuss some of the changes you can make today, in order to achieve long-term benefits, not just perceived short-term gains.

  • There is a clear connection between the heart and brain. When you consume a natural, whole food diet, your body does all the heavy-lifting for you. When you maintain balanced blood sugar levels, reduce your blood pressure, and reach a healthy weight, you will already be doing your body and mind a world of good.
  • The same is true regarding your gut, as research is beginning to show the true mind-gut connection in terms of positive health. In fact, a recent study linked intestinal flora to one’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
  • Do not shy away from fats — they’re NOT the enemy. It’s about choosing the right types, consuming plenty of wild-caught fish, avocados, nuts, seeds, raw olive oil, etc. Whenever possible, also include foods on your plate that reduce inflammation and fight oxidation — turmeric, blueberries, dark leafy greens, dark chocolate, plums, etc.
  • Significantly reduce your intake of sugar and trans fats, eliminating all heavily processed foods from your diet. In fact, some of the worst foods in relation to Alzheimer’s risk include, but are not limited to: margarine, processed meats, white bread, refined sugar, etc.

Nutrition is a major contributing factor in relation to long-term positive health, but it’s not the only area you should focus on. Living a balanced lifestyle means targeting all aspects of your daily routine in relation to your wellbeing. Focus on the following:

  • Improving sleep quality — this cannot be stressed enough. Suggested reading: How Poor Sleep Quality May Contribute to Alzheimer’s.
  • Speaking of stress, learn how to effectively manage increasing levels of stress in order to promote both your heart and brain. Adrenal fatigue can lead to brain fog and other neurological symptoms.
  • Exercise! Even if you just walk 30 minutes each day, it’s about moving your body. In general, anything that’s good for your heart is good for your brain. One study even found that when you regularly exercises, increasing your heart rate, the size of your hippocampus increases. This is the brain area involved in learning and memory.
  • Remain socially active. Both loneliness and a lack of stimulation have been linked to cognitive decline. Join a club or make social time a priority within your weekly schedule.

The point is, you don’t need to throw away your money, chasing possibilities that are not backed by science. Which leaves me with my concluding argument: Before you jump onto the latest trend, be sure to do your research — real science matters, don’t trust pseudoscience.

Krista Hillis has a B.A.Sc degree, specializing in neuroscience and psychology. She is actively involved in the mental health and caregiving community, aiming to help others. Krista is also passionate about nutrition and the ways in which lifestyle choices affect and influence the human brain.

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