Scientists Find No Evidence That Brain Games Make You Brainier

Katherine Streeter for NPR

Want to be smarter? More focused? Free of memory problems as you age?

If so, don’t count on brain games to help you.

That’s the conclusion of an exhaustive evaluation of the scientific literature on brain training games and programs. It was published Monday in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest.

“It’s disappointing that the evidence isn’t stronger,” says Daniel Simons, an author of the article and a psychology professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

“It would be really nice if you could play some games and have it radically change your cognitive abilities,” Simons says. “But the studies don’t show that on objectively measured real-world outcomes.”

The evaluation, done by a team of seven scientists, is a response to a very public disagreement about the effectiveness of brain games, Simons says.

In October 2014, more than 70 scientists published an open letter objecting to marketing claims made by brain training companies. Pretty soon, another group, with more than 100 scientists, published a rebuttal saying brain training has a solid scientific base.

“So you had two consensus statements, each signed by many, many people, that came to essentially opposite conclusions,” Simons says.

In an effort to clarify the issue, Simons and six other scientists reviewed more than 130 studies of brain games and other forms of cognitive training. The evaluation included studies of products from industry giant Lumosity, which has been a prominent sponsor of NPR and other public radio programming.

“We went through each paper and tried to look at the kind of evidence it provided,” Simons says.

That meant asking questions like: How big was the study? Did it have an appropriate control group? Do the results support the marketing claims made by companies?

The scientists found that “many of the studies did not really adhere to what we think of as the best practices,” Simons says.

Some of the studies included only a few participants. Others lacked adequate control groups or failed to account for the placebo effect, which causes people to improve on a test simply because they are trying harder or are more confident.

There were some good studies, Simons says. And they showed that brain games do help people get better at a specific task.

“You can practice, for example, scanning baggage at an airport and looking for a knife,” he says. “And you get really, really good at spotting that knife.”

But there was less evidence that people got better at related tasks, like spotting other suspicious items, Simons says. And there was no strong evidence that practicing a narrow skill led to overall improvements in memory or thinking.

That’s disappointing, Simons says, because “what you want to do is be better able to function at work or at school.”

The evaluation got a warm reception from at least some of the scientists who had signed the 2014 letter defending the science behind brain training.

“The evaluation was very even-handed and raised many excellent points,” says George Rebok, a psychologist at Johns Hopkins University who has been involved in brain training research for the past 20 years. “It really helped raise the bar in terms of the level of science that we must aspire to.”

Rebok, who says he has no ties to brain training companies, remains optimistic that the right program of brain exercises can improve mental functioning and delay the effects of aging.

One reason brain games haven’t shown a clear benefit so far, he says, may be that they don’t work the brain hard enough or over a long enough time period.

“It takes mental effort and practice to be able to see results,” Rebok says. “If we can implement that long range, I think that there will be a big dividend eventually.”

In the meantime, the brain training industry is facing scrutiny from the Federal Trade Commission.

In January, the company behind Lumosity agreed to pay a $2 million fine to settle FTC charges that it made unfounded claims about its brain training program.

And in May, a smaller brain training company called LearningRx agreed to pay a $200,000 fine to settle similar charges. Even so, the Learning Rx website still promises “A better brain at any age.”

Scientists Find No Evidence That Brain Games Make You Brainier : Shots – Health News : NPR.

Source: Scientists Find No Evidence That Brain Games Make You Brainier : Shots – Health News : NPR

How playing one game can help students get into college

Mission: Admission takes some of the fear out of applying for further education

Next week, the U.S. Federal Student Aid program (FAFSA) will launch a new Oct. 1 start date and form schedule for students seeking financial help getting into college. In previous years, the FAFSA start-date was in March. The change is designed to give students more time to prepare for college, and to bring the aid program into the same timeline as college applications.

Research shows that those kids whose parents went to college are far more likely to apply for college than those whose parents did not go to college, regardless of grades.

For activists and professionals operating in higher education, this is a matter of concern. Applying for college and applying for aid is not a simple matter. Most kids need help. But with schools still reeling from budgetary cuts, there simply aren’t enough in-school councillors to go around.

Mission: Admission shows students how to enroll in the appropriate college

One project that’s gaining traction is a videogame that teaches kids how to go through the process of applying for college. Played in realtime over the course of a week, Mission: Admission shows students how to meet scholarship deadlines, apply for aid, work on personal statements, request letters of recommendation and take extra curricular activities as well as apply to and enroll in the appropriate college…

For the rest of the article, please follow the link below.

How playing one game can help students get into college | Polygon.

Source: How playing one game can help students get into college | Polygon

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Ian Hamilton posted a very nice short list of presentations that address accessibility on May 19th’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day. Please see the source article at his blog on

May 19th’s Global Accessibility Awareness Day is an an annual event ‘to get people talking, thinking and learning about digital accessibility and users with different disabilities’. It runs across all industries, and this year saw a big increase in the game industry’s involvement.more Taking part can mean any level of involvement, all the way from a #gaad tweet to a conversation at work, going mouse-less for a day, all the way through to organising awareness raising events.

I usually chip in with a talk or two. This year I had one on mobile accessibility at Nordic Game and one on the past year’s advances as part of ID24. I’ve also been keeping an eye out for game accessibility related tweets, articles and so on, and have listed the ones I’ve come across below. I’ve also posted separately about some of my favourite quotes from the day.

Seeing the big increase on last year (including companies like Microsoft, Sony, Naughty Dog, Turtle Rock and Harmonix getting involved) has really been quite something, it can only lead to good things.


First up The Paciello Group hosted three live streamed talks as part of their ID24 event –

In gaming – some things should be easy, some should be challenging, everything should be inclusive

Bryce Johnson, XBox

Uncharted 4: A New Adventure in Video Game Accessibility

Emilia Schatz and Alex Neonakis, Naughty Dog, and Kevin Chung, Sony

Changing Tides: 2015’s Games Industry Accessibility Advancements

Ian Hamilton

Sony also put out the Uncharted overview video separately, which has seen a huge amount of interest from players of all level of ability and some decent press coverage too, raising bucketloads of awareness, which is of course what the day is all about. At time of posting there are around 70k views, and quite incredibly for youtube, almost universally positive comments left on it. And Tara Voelker of Turtle Rock put out a twitch stream about accessibility in Evolve, which is archived here:

#GAAD Tara talks about accessibility and Evolve

Articles & blog posts

Inclusive Gaming with XBox One

Barrie Ellis, OneSwitch

Uncharted 4 (PS4) accessibility

Barrie Ellis, OneSwitch

Possum ZX Spectrum

Barrie Ellis, OneSwitch

Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Steven Spohn, AbleGamers

On Board Game Accessibility

Meeple Like Us

Making games accessible: thoughts and resources

Cloudy Heaven Games


And last but not least, a non-exhaustive collection of gamedev related tweets that went out under the #gaad hashtag

What does it all mean?

While all of this is great in itself, it’s a symptom of something larger.

No matter which way you look at gaming, whether it is the doors finally being open on accessibility in consoles and engines, the level of implementation in games, the number of talks at CSUN and average attendance at GDC accessibility talks, attitudes amongst the gaming community… they all paint the same picture, which is that accessibility in gaming is on an exponential curve.

But it isn’t a given, we can’t be complacent. We have to keep that momentum going. GAAD is only one day of the year, we need to keep on with this for the 364 too, keep the conversation going, keep letting people know that this matters.

The more people do that, the more lasting change we’ll see, and the more studios and gamers will be able to benefit from all that accessibility in games brings.

Reposted from personal blog

Gamasutra: Ian Hamilton’s Blog – Global Accessibility Awareness Day.

Source: Gamasutra: Ian Hamilton’s Blog – Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Learning by design

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