Brain Games Don’t Improve Your Mental Abilities, Study Says

Brain Games Don’t Improve Your Mental Abilities, Study Says

Pouring over the crossword every morning, and buying up every new mobile mental app? You might want to spend your money on the gym instead, researchers say.

If you’re interested in keeping your mind sharp and trying to stay ahead by tackling ‘brain games’, you’ll want to know this truth: they don’t really work.

New research from Florida State University says that you’re not doing yourself any favors by buying up brain games online, in books or otherwise.

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Mobile apps like those found at and other types of mental games form a billion-dollar industry. The apps vary in price but often sell for about $15 a month or $300 for lifetime memberships.

Why do people buy them in the first place? Companies claim the games are able to train your cognitive abilities for a better tomorrow. The games are said to improve your working memory, which can enhance your overall mental performance in life.

So, if you’re sick of losing your keys, tired of forgetting your brunch dates and never want to fumble over your new zip code again, the idea is that you can stock up on some of these activities, play them regularly, and thereby fix your problems. You’ll create thinking that’s clear as day.

But the problem is, when researchers in Florida conducted a recent study on the subject, this doesn’t look like it’s the case.

New Skills but No Lasting Effect


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Here’s what took place in the lab: researchers decided to zone in on whether brain games can enhance players’ working memory, and live up to their claims of improving your reasoning, memory and processing speed.

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The FSU team split participants into two groups. In the first one, people played a specially designed brain-training video game called “Mind Frontiers.” In the other, people performed crossword games or number puzzles.

What did the researchers find? Sad news. Scientists said that the games did challenge participants, and people could become quite good at them over time. The problem was that the new skills didn’t transfer over into other areas of their lives.


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Neil Charness, a professor of psychology, a leading authority on aging and cognition and the study’s lead author explains it:

“It’s possible to train people to become very good at tasks that you would normally consider general working memory tasks: memorizing 70, 80, even 100 digits,” he said.

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“But these skills tend to be very specific and not show a lot of transfer. The thing that seniors in particular should be concerned about is, if I can get very good at crossword puzzles, is that going to help me remember where my keys are? And the answer is probably no.”

What could make your brain stronger? Charness recommends getting more aerobic exercise. That, and a good time socializing with friends might be more beneficial.

So, ditch the apps and get a monthly membership, or buy a bike and get trekking. It’s a wiser investment.

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