Friday 22 September 2017

Brain games 'fail to improve IQ'

A man plays a game on a Nintendo DS console
A man plays a game on a Nintendo DS console

Hugely popular brain training games that sell in their millions may be fun to play but do nothing to improve IQ, a study has found.

The hand-held computer games are said to "exercise" the mental muscles and over time improve general thinking and memory.

But a study involving more than 11,400 participants across the UK concluded there was "no evidence" that they can.

Although practice improved game performance, the skills learned did not transfer to unrehearsed mental tasks.

Players did no better at a series of independent mental tests than another group of volunteers given general knowledge quizzes instead of brain training.

This was true even when the tests tapped into the same areas of the brain used to play the games.

Dr Adrian Owen, one of the researchers from the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, said: "Brain training, or the quest to improve brain function through regular use of computer tests, is a multimillion-pound industry, yet up until now there's been a real lack of robust evidence to show it really works.

"Our findings will no doubt surprise millions of people worldwide who do some form of brain training every day in the belief that 'exercising' their brain makes them better at everyday thinking tasks.

"In one of our computer games that tests memory by assessing how many numbers could be remembered by players, we found it would take almost four years of playing brain training games regularly each week to remember just one extra digit."

The study was carried out in collaboration with the BBC science programme "Bang Goes The Theory".

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