I bet you’ve probably seen that ad about a BAZILLION times like I have. In fact, I even considered getting it for my grandparents 2 Christmases ago (but it was WAY too expensive.) Shoot, I even wanted to try it. Who doesn’t want a stronger brain in just 10 minutes a day? However, this week the Federal Trade Commission has fined Lumosity $2 million which will be used to pay back customers the FTC says were swindled with Lumosity’s neuro-bunk.
But there’s research! And here it is: Enhancing Cognitive Abilities with Comprehensive Training: A Large, Online, Randomized, Active-Controlled Trial as originally seen in PLOSone.
Honestly, the research looks well done to me. They have a large participant pool, the confidence interval is good. I think where they went wrong and where the FTC is KILLING them is that the whole study was funded by Lumosity’s owner Lumos Labs, Inc. and most of the authors were employed by Lumos Labs and hold stock in the company. Incentive to make their product look good, much?
I’m not convinced Lumosity isn’t a good product though. Why? Not because of the research article they gave the world there, that’s for sure. No. What DOES boost your brain? General healthy habits make for a healthy brain too: appropriate diet and exercise. But also using your brain. That’s how neuroplasticity– how your brain physiologically to learn new things and solve novel problems– works. Give your brain a challenge and it will grow neurons to make new connections, so the next time it is presented with a similar challenge, it won’t be so hard. So if Lumosity can provide that– continually novel decision making challenges– in the form of a game, then it just may work. Do I know for sure that it does in fact change its games enough to keep it novel for the participants? Nope, I can’t say I’ve paid the ridiculous amount of money they want to try it. However, people do crosswords and Sudoku for the same purpose all the time, so why not an online game? I like Sudoku. I’ve never been into crosswords. Plus you can get those for FREE online or many newspapers have 1 in every edition. Learning anything new boosts your brain power… so trying out martial arts or learning a new language will do the trick too.
In fact, I issue you this challenge: pick yourself something new to learn (or a novel game to play) and boost your brain power!