No benefits to brain training games: Western study finds no improvement in cognitive skills

Lead author Dr. Bobby Stojanoski. Western University, 2018

If you’ve been spending hours on brain training games trying to stay sharp, a study out of Western University may have you rethinking your approach.

The paper, published in the journal Neuropsychologia, suggests that all that training has basically zero impact.

The study involved 72 participants. One group of participants completed roughly 13 hours of two different brain training games.

“After they completed that very lengthy period of brain training, we tested them on two quite similar tests to determine whether the brain training transferred to improvements on these untrained tests,” said lead author and research scientist in the Owen Lab at Western’s Brain and Mind Institute, Dr. Bobby Stojanoski.

Story continues below advertisement

“What we found was that it didn’t. In fact, the group that trained for 13 hours did no better on the test tests than a group of control participants who didn’t do any training at all.”

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.

The study was designed to further groundbreaking research from 2010 led by Western neuroscientist Adrian Owen. That study monitored 11,000 people who “brain trained” for six weeks that found that getting good at brain games does not improve working memory or enhance IQ.

For the current study, Stojanoski said researchers believed that if someone were to get “really, really good” at one test, “maybe then you’ll get improvement” on similar tests, but the research did not back up that hypothesis and instead furthered the 2010 results.

“Unfortunately, there’s just no evidence for that and our latest study confirms that finding: that there just isn’t any generalizable benefits to brain training.”

As for what people can do to successfully see improved cognition, Stojanoski said it’s best to focus on overall health.

“Things like sleeping well, a healthy diet, socializing with friends are really good, proven ways to help improve cognition and health in general.”

The study was supported by Western’s $66-million Canada First Research Excellence Fund, BrainsCAN.


Sponsored content