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We’ve all seen those brain-training TV commercials by companies like Lumosity that try to convince us to pay for fun online games that will act as a “personal trainer” for our brains. They claim their puzzles improve our cognitive performances with “the science of neuroplasticity,” whatever the heck that is. As it turns out, those so-called brain-flexing games are a heaping load of hokum.

It was just announced that Lumos Labs, the $6 billion dollar company that runs Lumosity, was forced to cough up $2 million dollars to the Federal Trade Commission in the US because their online program is BS. Ouch.

According to the FTC, Lumosity’s claims that their brain-training programs help with cognitive performance and prevent mental decline with age are not in any way backed by science.

Jessica Rich, the director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, says “Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease, but Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”

Ah. If only the ability to learn faster, remember more and discover our full cognitive potential was as easy as matching colours and shapes.

Georgia Institute of Technology prof Randall Engel has confirmed that smarts aren’t developed from online games. They come from neurotransmitters and the dopamine system, a mass of nerve cells in the middle of your brain. “The idea that you can do some little computer game for half an hour a day for 10 days and change that system is ludicrous on the face of it.”

So aside from reading billions of books, how can we actually get the most potential out of our noggins? The answer is pretty simple. We just need to take care of ourselves.

Meditation, sufficient rest, exercise and good health will all enable us to use our brains to their full potential. And you can enjoy online games, just don’t expect that they’ll make you some sort of scholar, impervious to dementia.

sheldon

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