A recent article in The New York Times called Do Brain Workouts Work? Science Isn’t Sure stated that all the hype for adults being able to strengthen their brains by using certain computer programs may be all hype. There is no scientific data supporting that allegation.

Lumosity is one of the sites mentioned. Happy Neuron of Mountain View CA promises “brain fitness for life.” Cogmed which is owned by the British education company Pearson alleges that “improved attention and capacity for learning.”  An Israeli firm is developing a program that they hope will work with Alzheimer’s disease.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid are investigating these programs and may, in some cases, reimburse the cost. However, the science of cognitive training has not kept up with the hype according to Dr. Murali Doraiswamy, director of the neurocognitive disorders program at Duke Institute for Brain Sciences.

Some game training can improve a person’s cognitive performance according to the University of Oslo. However, in this study, the increase in skill hasn’t been shown to transfer to other tasks. “Sudoku or an online matching game makes you better at the game but doesn’t make you better at math or help you remember names or where you left the car keys.”

Last September in Nature a study from UC San Francisco showed some improvement in short-term and long –term memory by playing a specific driving game. The significance of this study is that it seemed to help older adult brains perform better at other memory and attention tasks.

I subscribed to Posit Science several years ago and worked on their program for auditory strengthening. It was grueling and I could only work for 20-30 minutes at a time instead of the recommended 60 minutes. However, at the end of the program, not only had I increased my processing time by 38%, but I was able to walk into a grocery store and remember a list of 4-5 items without having to write them down. I can almost remember an entire phone number. And I can find the car in the parking lot most of the time. More on these studies in the next blog.