The brain-training program Lumosity is advertised to increase the intelligence and decision-making abilities of users. Millions worldwide invest in Lumosity to better their lives and offset the effects of cognitive decline due to aging or brain injury. However, a recent study shows that the claims might be false. University of Pennsylvania researchers found that there is insufficient evidence to support Lumosity’s advertising promises.
For the experiment, researchers asked volunteers to use the Lumosity program for half an hour each day for ten weeks. They then led participants through two tasks measuring impulsivity, risky decision-making, and cognitive functioning. Although the researchers did find that the participants’ performances improved on Lumosity’s game tasks over time, they were surprised to find that the program did not seem to enhance decision-making and cognitive performance on other demanding tasks.
According to the Lumosity website, the brain training program is “designed by scientists to challenge core cognitive abilities” by increasing neuroplasticity. As defined by the Encyclopaedia Britannica, neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to enhance and repair itself by forming new neural connections in response to the environment. Co-author of the study at the University of Pennsylvania, Mary Falcone, explained to Penn Medicine News that successfully developing a brain training program for improving cognitive functioning may have big implications for the health of Americans. It could combat impulsive behaviors that contribute to preventable diseases, like cardiovascular diseases that result from overeating or tobacco use.
Research from the Sandia National Laboratories, a National Nuclear Security Administration lab, found that brain training programs are effective – but only when coupled with transcranial brain stimulation.
According to the Lumosity website, nearly eighty-five million people worldwide have registered for the program. The company offers various payment plans for their program ranging from twelve dollars per month to about a two-hundred-forty dollars for the lifetime access plan. That is quite a large sum of money for a program that has not been proven effective. Moreover, the findings by the University of Pennsylvania are not the first time Lumosity has faced heat. As reported by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) back in 2016 the company paid a two million dollar settlement to the FTC for deceptive advertising. Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Jessica Rich explained the reason for the settlement:
Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease but Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.
While there’s no harm in playing Lumosity’s brain games, Americans should remain skeptical of pricey brain training programs. Although Lumosity advertises to be backed by sound science, the program does not have sufficient research evidence to support their marketing claims. Play the games if you will, but don’t expect to become a genius.
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