It would seem that there’s an app out there for everything – including plenty that claim to train your brain. But can an app really help your brain out?
There’s a plethora of brain training apps making all sorts of grandiose claims to boost your IQ and your mental sharpness. Some even claim that ‘training’ will improve ‘critical cognitive skills’ that are proven to boost productivity, earning power and self-confidence.
These apps have had millions of downloads each, so they must be doing something right. But can their claims really be true?
App testing truth
In 2009 we asked manufacturers of brain training devices and software what the benefits of using their products were, and requested evidence to back up their claims.
Our experts concluded that much of the evidence for these claims was weak. The evidence showed that using a brain training app only made you better at that specific task – which is to be expected if you’re spending large amounts of time practicing to achieve a singular goal.
So seven years have passed since then, has anything changed? It seems not. Developers Lumos Labs have found themselves hit by a hefty $2m fine to settle claims over deceptive advertising for their brain training suite ‘Lumosity’.
The US Federal Trade Commission said that:
‘Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease’
The app showed an image of a brain increasing in physical size, and even gave you a numerical ‘brain size’ rating for your efforts. The intended psychological effect is clear, but the company has been banned from making future claims about any benefits for real-world performance, age-related decline, or other health conditions until they have scientific backing.
Maybe it’s just a game though?
Surely we don’t really believe that an app like Lumosity can somehow beef up our brains? There’ll be many people using these apps/games as a boredom-killer – something to do on a long commute or while they’re waiting at the dentist.
That’s all well and good, but perhaps the lines have become blurred in these cases and it’s not really fair to have invested both your money and time against claims with little concrete evidence behind them.
You may have got the impression I’m more on the sceptical side of the fence (just the way I am I’m afraid!). I’m happy keeping my brain in shape with a regular dose of reading – a good Which? Convo debate comes in handy more often than not. And of course, as we advised back in 2009, regular physical exercise.
So have you ever used a brain training app? We’d love to hear your views (good and bad!)