And not much else, it seems. You see ads on the internet, and on TV all the time for “brain-training” that will help improve your memory, and possibly even improve your IQ. Sounds too good to be true, huh? It is. Scientists have done some real controlled studies, and concluded that they don’t really do anything – except make you better at playing whatever games you’re playing with the brain-training software.
Interesting read from the New Yorker.
It seemed like a breakthrough, offering new approaches to education and help for people with A.D.H.D., traumatic brain injuries, and other ailments. In the years since, other, similar experiments yielded positive results, and Klingberg helped found a company, Cogmed, to commercialize the software globally. (Pearson, the British publishing juggernaut, purchased it in 2010.) Brain training has become a multi-million-dollar business, with companies like Lumosity, Jungle Memory, and CogniFit offering their own versions of neuroscience-you-can-use, and providing ambitious parents with new assignments for overworked but otherwise healthy children. The brain-training concept has made Klingberg a star, and he now enjoys a seat on an assembly that helps select the winners of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. The field has become a staple of popular writing. Last year, the New York Times Magazine published a glowing profile of the young guns of brain training called “CAN YOU MAKE YOURSELF SMARTER?”
The answer, however, now appears to be a pretty firm no—at least, not through brain training. A pair of scientists in Europe recently gathered all of the best research—twenty-three investigations of memory training by teams around the world—and employed a standard statistical technique (called meta-analysis) to settle this controversial issue. The conclusion: the games may yield improvements in the narrow task being trained, but this does not transfer to broader skills like the ability to read or do arithmetic, or to other measures of intelligence. Playing the games makes you better at the games, in other words, but not at anything anyone might care about in real life.