The largest trial to date of 'brain-training' computer games suggests that people who use the software to boost their mental skills are likely to be disappointed.
The study, a collaboration between British researchers and the BBC Lab UK website, recruited viewers of the BBC science programme Bang Goes the Theory to practise a series of online tasks for a minimum of ten minutes a day, three times a week, for six weeks. In one group, the tasks focused on reasoning, planning and problem-solving abilities--skills correlated with general intelligence. A second group was trained on mental functions targeted by commercial brain-training programs--short-term memory, attention, visuospatial abilities and maths. A third group, the control subjects, simply used the Internet to find answers to obscure questions. A total of 11,430 volunteers aged from 18 to 60 completed the study, and although they improved on the tasks, the researchers believe that none of the groups boosted their performance on tests measuring general cognitive abilities such as memory, reasoning and learning.
"There were absolutely no transfer effects" from the training tasks to more general tests of cognition, says Adrian Owen, a neuroscientist at the Medical Research Council (MRC) Cognition and Brian Sciences...
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