Playing memory, reasoning or other brain games won’t make you smarter or mentally stronger, researchers said. A study involving 11,430 people from across Britain found that the “training” failed to improve overall brain function better than answering general questions on the Internet, said lead researcher Adrian Owen.
“Millions of people are using these games,” said Owen, a neuroscientist. “If people find these things fun, they should keep doing them. But if they are doing it to try to improve their mental function, that’s not going to happen.” Dozens of companies sell brain-training software in a bid to strengthen the mind and ward off dementia. The study results, published this week in the journal Nature, suggest users may be wasting their money.
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“There is good evidence that keeping mentally active is good for you and can stave off the effects of old age,” he said. “You might want to read a good book or learn a foreign language rather than investing a lot of time or money in a brain trainer.
Doing the games repetitively did lead to improvements. The changes were small, however, and limited to the training. A game that asks people to remember the location of numbers on a blank page would eventually help gamers find more numbers.
It would take four years of daily training to remember just one extra digit, however, and it wouldn’t improve their overall memory, the researchers said.“It’s very specific,” Owen said.