Spending too much of money on “brain trainers” to maintain mental agility may not be a very good idea anymore, for a new study suggests that the benefits such gadgets provide are almost the same amount as can be obtained by doing a crossword or surfing the internet.
Experts employed by a consumer group, known as Which?, say that there is not scientific evidence to prove that brain-training devices can help improve memory or stave off the risk of illnesses like dementia.
Gadgets like the Nintendo DS, which are endorsed by actress Nicole Kidman and singer Cheryl Cole, are very popular these days.
However, the experts behind the study insist that much of the evidence supporting the claims is "weak", and that in some cases other activities, such as playing standard computer games, can have the same effect.
The gadgets whose claims were examined by the scientific experts included Dr. Kawashima's Brain Training, Mindfit, and Lumosity.
"If people enjoy using these games, then they should continue to do so - that's a no-brainer. But if people are under the illusion that these devices are scientifically proven to keep their minds in shape, they need to think again," the Guardian quoted Martyn Hocking, editor of Which?, as saying.
The members of the panel were asked to try the brain training products for a month.
One of the experts, Dr Adrian Owen, assistant director at the Medical Research Council's cognition and brain sciences unit in Cambridge, said of the research involving one group: "If they'd been asked to play Space Invaders for a month and improved at it - as surely they would - would we have concluded this was a beneficial form of brain training? Probably not."
Defending their research standards, Michael Scanlon, a neuroscientist from Lumosity, said: "We would never say Lumosity is proven to improve day-to-day living, but there is more and more evidence it does. We have actually conducted our own clinical trials to measure effectiveness of the product."
Bruce Robinson, chief executive of MindWeavers, which produces MindFit, said: "If you look at the wider evidence in the field the broad conclusion is that brain stimulation is working. With the MindFit product, a study was done by an independent medical centre in Israel which supported that evidence. We are not claiming MindFit will stop Alzheimer's."
Nintendo said: "Nintendo does not make any claims that Brain Training is scientifically proven to improve cognitive function. What we claim is the Brain Training series of games, like playing sudoku, are enjoyable and fun. These exercises can also help to keep the brain sharp."