Although many experts have thought that brain games and other prevention measures (such as diet and exercise) could stave off symptoms of dementia, recent studies paint a different picture.

There are many products on the market today that aim to promote brain health and improve cognitive function. These include, supplements, diets, and several websites that claim certain “brain games” can improve cognitive functioning and may even prevent dementia.

What are Brain Games?

Brain games are online applications involving activities that are said to improve brain functioning. One such online program is Luminosity. Nintendo also has a game said to help build cognitive reserve, called Brain Age. These so-called brain-training products are very popular, particularly for seniors hoping to maintain optimal brain health for as long as possible. Even though billions of dollars are being made by companies that offer these brain games, scientists are very skeptical about claims regarding any activity or lifestyle change that may prevent various types of dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease–because they say there is lack of evidence.

Recent Study on Brain Games

Luminosity paid out a legal settlement of $2 million to the Federal Trade Commission for its unsubstantiated claims that their product could improve memory and focus (and possibly reverse symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease). Since the law suit, Luminosity has announced that more research is needed before a connection can be made between improved game scores and improvement in people’s cognitive functioning, in real life.
A 2017 study was implemented to do more research, and it seems the verdict is in. According to the Journal of Neuroscience, a new study of 64 participants who played Luminosity for 30 minutes per day, found “no evidence that personal brain training benefited the participants in terms of improving cognitive performance, working memory, on attention, cognitive flexibility, or inhibitory control,” said Dr. Caryn Lerman, the study’s lead author and a psychiatry professor at the University of Pennsylvania.

Examination of Other Research Study Findings

Experts from the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, say there is a lack of sufficient evidence to back up claims of products, such as brain games, that improve cognition. According to committee members, there may be some evidence that cognitive training, in conjunction with lifestyle changes, AND lowering hypertension (high blood pressure) may reduce the risk of dementia, but the studies were inconclusive.

The committee, released a report, called “Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia: A Way Forward,” that demanded that public health reports clean up their act and ONLY publish information that is accurate about the reality of dementia prevention measures.

“We’re all urgently seeking ways to prevent dementia and cognitive decline with age,” said Dr. Richard J. Hodes, director of the government’s National Institute on Aging. “But we must consider the strength of evidence — or lack thereof — in making decisions about personal and public investments in prevention.”

The report was compiled from a review of the medical evidence submitted by “The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality’s Evidence-based Practice Center.” This agency examined the evidence resulting from literally hundreds of dementia prevention studies.

The researchers found no evidence to back any claim that computer based brain training activities could improve cognitive abilities. The studies showed little evidence that lowering blood pressure could help reduce risks or prevent dementia either, for that matter. The studies involving exercise and reduced risk of dementia did, however, show some promise that healthy people may lower the risk of dementia by increasing their level of physical activity. But, once early Alzheimer’s was diagnosed, exercise was shown to be ineffective in reversing the disease process.

So, before you invest in technology that has a claim to fame for improving brain functioning and promoting healthy longevity, be sure to think twice and do your research. Chances are, many products on the market today, may be a waste of your time, and your money.


Resource
1. Penn News. (2017). Retrieved
https://news.upenn.edu/news/brain-training-has-no-effect-decision-making-or-cognitive-function-penn-researchers-report