The placebo effect may be behind the success of brain training games, meaning that boosts in intelligence may be all in participants' heads, a new study suggests.
The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
, found "clear evidence of placebo effects after a brief cognitive training routine that led to significant fluid intelligence gains."
Researchers looked at two groups of students undertaking the same activity.
Members of the first group were told they were participating in a brain training and cognitive enhancement study while those in the second group were only told they would receive credits for their participation, Forbes magazine explained
Those who believed they completed a brain training exercise scored five to 10 points higher on a subsequent IQ test than the other group.
“It's strong evidence that it wasn't really a true training effect,” cognitive scientist Cyrus Foroughi told Cosmos magazine
Brain-training programs like Lumosity have drawn criticism in recent years over their efficacy, and Luminosity agreed to a $2 million settlement announced in January by the Federal Trade Commission
“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” Jessica Rich, director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, said in a news release at the time. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”
Likewise, in 2014, the Stanford Center on Longevity released a statement
signed by 69 scientists calling claims that brain-training games can reduce or reverse cognitive decline exaggerated and misleading.
Twitter users shared mixed reactions to the study results.
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