In a new study from University of Western Ontario, researchers debunk claims that getting better at a brain training game can translate to improved performance in other, untrained cognitive tasks.
There is strong incentive to improve our cognitive abilities, and brain training has emerged as a promising approach for achieving this goal.
While the idea that extensive ‘training’ on computerized tasks will improve general cognitive functioning is appealing, the evidence to support this remains inconsistent.
This is, in part, because of poor criteria for selecting training tasks and outcome measures resulting in inconsistent definitions of what constitutes transferable improvement to cognition.
In the current study, the researchers aimed to test whether hours of ‘brain training’ in one game could give someone an edge in a second game that uses the same area of the brain.
They used a training approach to examine whether training on two different, but related, working memory tasks produced transferable benefits to similar untrained test tasks.
The study included two experiments, with 72 participants in total.
The team found that despite significant improvement on both training tasks, participants did not improve on either test task.
In fact, performance on the test tasks after training were nearly identical to a group who did not get the training.
These results show that brain training does not generalize transferable benefits, even to very similar tasks.
The study calls into question the benefit of cognitive training beyond practice effects, and provides a new framework for future investigations into the efficacy of brain training.
The researchers suggest that the best way to improve brain health and memory is having a healthy lifestyle.
This includes sleep well, exercise regularly, eat better, socialize and get continuous education.
Bobby Stojanoski, a research scientist in the Owen Lab at Western’s world renowned Brain and Mind Institute, is the lead author of the paper.
The study is published in the journal Neuropsychologia.
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