Brain-training games may not improve IQ, a new study has shown.
Adrian Owen of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, UK, and colleagues tested brain-training software, which supposedly keeps the brain youthful, on volunteers recruited through a BBC television programme.
The researchers asked 11,000 volunteers to take tests to gauge their reasoning ability and verbal and spatial memory. Participants then spent six weeks playing on one of two computer programs, or just surfing the web for trivia.
In one program, which mimics commercial brain-training software, the volunteers solved simple mathematics problems and puzzles that tested their memories. The other was designed specifically to boost cognitive abilities such as reasoning and planning.
After six weeks, the participants underwent a second round of cognitive tests. Both groups who played the games made modest improvements, yet so did the web surfers.
Owen said that skills learned via the programs didn't transfer to the cognitive tests, even when they relied on similar abilities.
"Even when the tests were conceptually quite similar we didn't see any improvement," New Scientist quoted Owen as saying.
He concluded that brain-training software only makes people better at the specific tasks they have been practising.
The study has been published in the Journal Nature.