A new Stanford study says yes

Many of you may be familiar with Lumosity (it even has its own commercial on TV now). It's a San Francisco-based company that provides an online brain training program, where subscribers play nearly 40 different games to improve attention, flexibility, memory and problem solving. It launched in 2007 and has about 40 million subscribers. 

The commercial says the Lumosity games are based on neuroscience, but the million-dollar question is, does it actually work? 

Shelli Kesler, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford University, seems to think it does.

Kesler recently led a Stanford study that aimed to measure how well Lumosity's brain training transferred into the real world. She used a small sample of 41 breast cancer patients who had been treated with chemotherapy. Past studies have shown that cancer patients who've undergone chemotherapy can experience cognitive impairment for years afterward. 

The experimental group in the Stanford study played Lumosity games four times a week for 12 weeks, and results showed that they had improved word finding, executive function and processing speed over the control group.

While this shows promising results, it's important to note that the study is a bit flawed, considering the fact that it depended on self-reporting for a couple of measures.

The question of whether online brain games really work or not has been met with mixed answers. Psychologist Susan Jaeggi (an assistant professor at Maryland Neuroimaging Center) will tell you it does work after her 2008 study found that online brain training increased intelligence. However, a Georgia Tech study found that they had no effect on its participants.

Also, a 2009 study by researchers at the the University of Rennes, Brittany, found that the video game "Brain Age" (which claims to offer benefits similar to that of Lumosity) didn't help students very much in memory tests. 

Personally, I love Lumosity. I make it a point to jump on the site once a day (when I can) and play the 3-4 games Lumosity has chosen for me for that particular day. Once I've played those games, Lumosity calculates my BPI (brain performance index) and tells me to come back tomorrow. I can't play anymore for the day because I signed up as a free subscriber. If you pay, you unlock full access to more gameplay and user statistics. 

Even if I am using the free version (and that may mean I'm not getting the optimal amount of training needed for real cognitive improvements), I really look forward to my daily Lumosity training. It's become a lottery of sorts, where I wonder which games I'll be able to play that day and whether or not they'll be any of my favorites. 

But that's the thing. Lumosity tends to send the same games to me over and over (they're usually spread out over different days of the week while gradually introducing new games here and there). I get it, repetition will make you better and raise your BPI, but I can never tell if I'm actually experiencing any cognitive improvements in the real world or if I'm just familiar with the games, so I know what to expect when playing them. 

What's your take, DailyTech readers? Do any Lumosity (or any other online brain training game) players out there feel they've started remembering where their car keys are more often after playing for an x amount of time?

Oh, and for those who are curious as to how much the paid version of Lumosity costs, it's $14.95/month. Or you can pay $6.95/month if you commit to a full year, $4.99/month for a two-year commitment or a one-time payment of $299.95 for a lifetime subscription. 

Sources: Medical Daily, Pando Daily, Fox News

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