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Do computer games improve your cognitive skills?

Wouldn’t we all love to have a better memory and be quick on our feet? Brain training games, like Lumosity, claim to be able to help us achieve these goals and others.

The app provides users with daily (mental) workouts that they say challenge your cognitive abilities to increase your brain’s efficiency. But can these types of apps really do all that they claim?

A recent study that was published in The Journal of Neuroscience says no. It was conducted by psychologists at the University of Pennsylvania. According to their research, cognitive training has no effect on neural activity during decision-making or the process of measuring risk and reward.

Nearly 130 people participated in the study. For 10 weeks, some of them completed mental workouts with the Lumosity app while others played a video game instead. Before and after the 10-week period, the participants completed cognitive assessments and had their brain activity studied in an fMRI machine.

Participants who used Lumosity improved at the apps workouts but both groups equally improved at the cognitive assessments administered by the research group.

Lumosity has been in hot water in the past because of claims from their advertisements. They’ve said that their app could improve your everyday performance at school or work, delay age-related cognitive problems, and reduce the severity of brain-related issues.

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

As a result of these false claims, the FTC fined them $2 million for deceptive advertising.

Despite all this, Lumosity has a four-star rating in both the iTunes store and the Google Play store. Customers said that the games are challenging but fun and they’ve seen an improvement in their memory. But they also said you need to pay for a subscription to get the most from the app.

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