Major U.S. Study Challenges Brain Training Industry’s Claims

Supercharged BrainBEACON TRANSCRIPTA major U.S. study might have just debunked the brain training industry’s claims and promises that you can keep your mind sharp as you age with help from various online games, training sessions, apps, and TV shows.

Study authors recommend the billion dollar industry to “temper its claims” as the brain training techniques it touts may be nothing more than a placebo. Additionally, the recent analysis shows that many claims on related sites are not backed by scientific evidence.

For instance, the site called NeuroNation claims that the more one trains the brain the smarter that person can get. So, scientists believe that such sites lure more people willing to believe that the training may be good for them than skeptics.

To test the validity of such claims, the team asked a group of 50 participants to play a memory game for 60 minutes. Volunteers were asked to identify and recall specific patterns.

Half of the study participants were told that numerous studies had shown that brain training can lead to brain function enhancement while exercising memory can make them more intelligent. The group was also given an impressive set of quotes supporting these claims from the so called “scientific” literature.

The rest of participants were not provided with info on the benefits of memory training. In a flyer, they were simply told that participation could result in additional course credits.

After one hour of training, the group that were promised to boost their brain power displayed between extra 1 to 10 points on the IQ scale. People in the other group, on the other hand, experienced no improvement whatsoever.

Study authors concluded that if a participant knows beforehand what the outcome of a brain training session may be, he or she will surely help boost brain function as a result of the notorious placebo effect.

Furthermore, brain training success is also heavily influenced by people’s belief or disbelief in the ability of the brain to stay sharp as it ages. As a result, precious research on the benefits of brain training may be biased from the very beginning, authors believe.

On the other hand, researchers did not dismiss the placebo effect as being useless. They only criticized how past studies on the topic had been conducted. Scientists think that brain training may hold some benefits but those benefits must be underscored by studies not skewed by the placebo effect.

The study, which was conducted by a team from George Mason University in Virginia, was published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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